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On 14 October 2019 – with Camilla Pietrabissa (Fondazione 1563 per l’arte e la cultura, Turin)

Lecture co-organised with the History of Science Working Group (EUI)

This seminar explores the role of drawing practices in fabricating the image of urban nature in eighteenth-century Paris. If the traditional narrative about Paris as an ‘open city’ refers to the period of demilitarization started under Colbert, a spatial and visual perspective emphasises the image of a city which, after centuries of confinement, finally extended into its landscape, embracing its natural territory. By the turn of the century, landscape and topographic drawings mixing urban and rural, architectural and natural heritage reveal the emergence of the Parisian ‘environs’ as a new space for scientific and artistic practices. Thus, a narrative of scholarly research, commerce and tourism – and thus of movement – replaces a narrative of strategic defence and royal authority to explain the shift in the visual representation of the city itself. At the crossing between art history and urban history, material culture studies and environmental history, the first part of this seminar illustrates how landscape and topographic drawings can be used to understand urban transformation in the early modern city. The second part will discuss the case study of a particular type of image which circulated widely around 1750, representing the Parisian countryside as a continuous, fertile land punctuated by picturesque farms and waterways. Initially devised by François Boucher in the form of highly finished drawings, picturesque views of the environs circulated in the form of prints and cabinet paintings. The ability of local printmakers to produce etchings in great number and a long tradition of seriality in the early-modern print trade were key to such development. Boucher’s landscape images were so effective that they contributed to create a new image of the Parisian territory which endured well into the nineteenth century.


Camilla Pietrabissa (Fondazione 1563 per l’arte e la cultura, Turin)

Camilla Pietrabissa is post-doctoral fellow at the Fondazione 1563 in Torino and academic fellow at Università Bocconi in Milan. Her research examines the image of landscapes and cities in the long eighteenth century, with a particular interest in painting and drawing in France and Italy. She recently completed a PhD in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London on the production and circulation of landscape painting in Paris at the turn of the eighteenth century, and is currently preparing its publication. Her latest article, on the teaching of optics to students of the art academy in Paris, will be published in an edited volume by the Centre Allemand d’Histoire de l’Art in December.