With the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars, not only the geographical but also the temporal map of Europe was redrawn. The new “historical-mindedness” of the 19th century is particularly noticeable when looking at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
To understand how changing concepts of the past affect cultural production, the École is essential, not least because it developed one of the most sophisticated and successful approach to questions of cultural transference in the 19th century. In particular, it developed a fully fledged system for transferring Graeco-Roman architectural heritage to the modern world; a system that combined didactics, a theory of history, a design concept, and a formal language. With students coming from all over the world, the École’s influence spread over Europe, Eurasia and the Americas, continuing well into the 1960s.
In this study, we are particularly interested in the so-called envois of the École des Beaux-Arts. These were selected students, sent out to provide paper reconstructions of major monuments in the Graeco-Roman world. The drawings would be exhibited in Paris and widely discussed, often causing intense controversy, as did for instance Labrouste’s reconstructions of the early Doric temples at Paestum. The envois provide a rich material, allowing us to study how uses of the past change through public debate in the 19th century.
This PriArc subproject is based at Leiden University and led by professor Caroline van Eck. The Leiden team also consists of a Postdoc and Dr. Alice Thomine-Berrada, our associate partner at Musée d’Orsay in Paris.