Call for Papers: « Belief in Miracles and Iconoclasm. Sacred Spaces in 18th Century France » (deadline: 15 july 2018)

Carle Van Loo, L’Agonie de saint Augustin (esquisse), 1748 ca., huile sur toile, Tours, Musée des beaux-arts

Type : Call for papers.

Deadline : 15 July 2018.

Date de l’événement : 3–5 December 2018.

Place : Paris, Centre allemand d’histoire de l’art, Hôtel Lully.

Following the completion of Carle Vanloo’s cycle on the Life of Saint Augustine for the Paris Church of Notre Dame des Victoires, its prior praised his “temple du Seigneur” as a “salon continuellement ouvert aux étrangers, & aux curieux qui y abondent de toutes parts pour admirer leurs ouvrages,” as he wrote in 1757 in the Mercure de France. The fact that a clergyman understands his church as a museal space is a reflection of the fundamental transformation that the holy and the sacred underwent in the century of the French Enlightenment. Beyond any political, social or transcendental-philosophical re-evaluation, this cultural shift formulated questions of meanings that are visually effectuated in a public place.Art proves to be a matrix, a seismograph and an operative instrument all at same time. The sacred space – which orchestrates this transformation as a synesthetic ensemble of architecture, the visual arts and music as well as through theology and liturgy – can only be realized in its convergences and shifts in sense if we understand it as a crystallization point for religious experience, for overwhelming aesthetics as well as for social interaction. After the Grand Siècle with its intense religious ardor at the end of Louis XIV’s regency, the subsequent spiritual crisis of the Régence with its ecclesio-political convulsions and the social dislocations of the querelle janséniste all the way to the critique of Pure Reason, the church was as a client undergoing permanent change.

This process is inscribed in the architecture with programmatic transformations of the already existing, such as the Gothic cathedrals, or through spectacular new mise-en-scène, the socalled « embellissements ». The renewal of history painting was also that of religious painting, which presented itself to the Salon and to the critic before it was transferred to its final destination. Sculpture and arts and crafts seek solutions in the context of nostalgia for antiquity or the medieval that stemmed from recent excavations and historiography, which helped develop a new comprehension for the function of the artifact. Thus, the 18th century underwent an intense phase of re-conception and restoration, but also the destruction of the sacred space, all between theatrum sacrum and gallery, between miraculous belief and iconoclasm. The transformation of medieval and Baroque architecture and embellishments, undertaken in the tense field between de-sacralization and re-sacralization, speaks of a paradigm shift in ideas on sacred art and its function in the increasingly enlightened climate of the 18th century. 

This conference inquires into religious experiences and the aesthetic transformations of the sacred space in the siècle des Lumières from an intermedial and transdisciplinary perspective. To what extent do we need to conceive the church in the 18th century not only as a sacred place but as a site that is visited by the believer as well as tourists, by clergymen as well as artists, by nobility as well as bourgeoisie, by men and women, and is experienced as a social, aesthetical, as well as emotional space? How can we explain the fundamental secularization and dissolution of boundaries that took place between the death of Louis XIV and the French Revolution? How does art – in the era of the emergence of the natural sciences, the century of the encyclopedias and the establishment of knowledge – deal with the credibility of the transcendental? Against a background of a critique of church and absolutism, of atheism and the demystification of religion as well as that of the plausible re-actualization of a spiritually configured engagement, the (syn)aesthetic concepts of the sacred space take on a special relevance. These concepts not only engage in a theoretical discourse on art but are a vivid expression of the continuing readjustment of our views on the society of the Enlightenment.

Please send your abstract (300 words, PDF) in English, French or German and a short bio no later than July 15th 2018 to:

Markus A. Castor (mcastor@dfk-paris.org);

Martin Schieder (schieder@uni-leipzig.de)

and Wiebke Windorf (wiebke.windorf@uni-due.de)

Concept & Organisation: Markus A. Castor (DFK Paris), Martin Schieder (Universität Leipzig) and Wiebke Windorf (Universität Duisburg-Essen).

Call for paper in french and german