September 22, 2023


Make Some Fun

96/ Antoine WATTEAU (1684-1721), the pacifist painter: a quantitative method

4 min read

The historical past of music, opera and ballet is a fascinating topic and really related to artwork historical past as its sister-arts. The music skilled Georgia Cowart wrote a paper ‘Watteau’s “Pilgrimage to Cythera” and the Subversive Utopia of the Opera-Ballet’ (1) the place she helps the view of Antoine WATTEAU (1684-1721) as a political subversive. She argues that he was impressed by the ‘opera-ballet’, an anti-absolutist type of pleasure and public leisure, in distinction to the previous patriarchal and imperialist imagery of the ‘court-ballet’ throughout the reign of Louis XIV. It “espoused a political ‘libertinage d’esprit’ foreshadowing the revolutionary considered the eighteenth-century Enlightenment”. Can this thesis be supported via a quantitative method, impartial of interpretation?

And is there an anti-thesis? Definitely, not all artists in WATTEAU’s time had been political subversive. The determine beneath is a network-visualization of French artists – with a couple of photographs of their works – within the interval 1700-1749: on the left aspect, the circle of artists round WATTEAU’s ‘Cythère’ and, on the suitable aspect, artists who depicted across the identical time the story of ‘Enée’ (Aeneas), a ‘militarist’ matter, extremely popular among the many ruling class, i.e. the aristocracy in Europe.

Fig. 1 Community visualization of French artists energetic in interval 1700-1749 
and impressed by the tales of ‘Cythère’ or ‘Enée’ (2)
UPDATE see COMMENT nr2 beneath

The principal supply for this quantitative comparability is the Topical Catalogue ‘The French Venus’ the place artworks and their artists are listed chronologically, in Subject 2.2 ‘Temple of Venus’ with  key phrase ‘Cythere’ ,  and in Subject 15.1 the place ‘Venus requests arms for Aeneas from Vulcan’ and Matters 7.2C & 7.2D the place ‘Venus delivers arms to Aeneas’and ‘Aeneas is deified’ (3). Extra sources for the circle round WATTEAU’s ‘Cythère’ are The Oxford Information to Classical Mythology within the arts, 1300-Nineteen Nineties (4, pp.152-153), Claudia Denk in ‘Faszination Venus, Bilder einer Göttin von Cranach bis Cabanel‘ (5, pp.160-171) and the web site ‘Watteau and His Circle’ of Martin Eidelberg (6).

In earlier posts a ‘connectivity’-map (Fig.2) of WATTEAU’s creations and its predecessors and successors has been introduced (7) in addition to a cumulative time-frequency distribution (Fig.3) of the ‘Cythere’– artworks (8).


Fig.2 Connectivity – map of WATTEAU’s masterworks and its predecessors and successors (7)

Fig.3 Cumulative time-frequency distribution of ‘Cythère’ – artworks (8)

The story of Aeneas, son of Venus, hero of Troye, conqueror of Latium and founding father of Rome, allegorical image for a lot of patrons of artists, was additionally explored in a former put up (9). Its outstanding recognition was demonstrated in ‘Distant Viewing: Love, Struggle and Propaganda’ (10).

Fig.4 Reputation of the ‘Aeneas Venus Vulcan’ – story in 5 European areas (10)

Fig.4 exhibits that 70 artworks had been created for the Matters 15.1, 7.2C & 7.2D within the Topical Catalogues throughout the interval 1700 -1749 by 26 French artists, visualized above in Fig.1.   

Is the quantitative comparability adequate to assist Cowart’s thesis? Solely two artists are discovered simultaneous in each teams: Louis DESPLACES and Nicolas TARDIEU, each engravers of unique work. Meals for sociologists…

The train is anyhow a superb instance in regards to the progressive potential of Digital Artwork Historical past as has been debated by Hubertus Kohle and Max Marmor in 2016 (11). Their two first arguments: 1) the appliance of quantitative strategies 2) the invention of artwork historic correlations had been utilized.



(1) Georgia J Cowart is professor of music at Case Western ReserveUniversity . She research music, the humanities, and cultural politics in early fashionable France. ‘Watteau’s “Pilgrimage to Cythera” and the Subversive Utopia of the Opera-Ballet’ in The Art Bulletin, Vol. 83, No. 3 Sep., 2001, pp. 461-478.
(2) The determine has been made with VOSviewermodel 1.6.11, a free software program instrument developed by Leiden College. 
(3) See put up of December 5, 2020 ‘Work in progress: The French Venus model 2.1.2’ 
(4) Jane Davidson Reid : The Oxford Information to Classical Mythology within the arts, 1300-Nineteen Nineties. 2 Volumes. New York, Oxford College Press, 1993. That is, sadly, the one catalogue combining the details about sister-arts. 
(5) Ekkehard Mai / Ursula Weber-Woelk (Hg.) Faszination Venus, Bilder einer Göttin von Cranach bis Cabanel‘, Ausstellungskatalog Köln, Antwerpen 2000-2001. Snoeck Ducaju, Gent. 
(6) Watteau and His Circle web site of Martin Eidelberg.

(7) See webpage “WATTEAU’s Embarquement pour Cythère” For a full account about  the worship of Aphrodite and her temple in Kythera, see  Chapter VIII (p.217-226) in ‘L’Aphrodite grecque’ by Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge, Centre Worldwide d’Etude de la Faith Grecque Vintage, Athènes-Liège, 1994.

(8) Submit of August 13,2012 ‘Cybernetics and artwork historical past: an odd relation?’

(9) See put up of November 4, 2013 ‘Extra in regards to the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite’

(10) Submit of December 11, 2016 ‘Distant Viewing (5): Love, Struggle and Propaganda’

(11) See put up of August 19, 2016 ‘Digital Artwork Historical past 4 years later: the controversy and PHAROS, a key initiative’


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