Pigalle (Jean-Baptiste) - Mercure attachant ses talonnières - 1744 - Marbre - Paris, musée du Louvre : département des Sculptures (MR 1957)

From the 2nd of December 2010 to the 2nd of February 2011 – Musee du Louvre
Antiquity Rediscovered – Innovation and Resistance in the 18th Century

While eighteenth-century art is often perceived as a progressive move from a taste for the lightness of rococo to the grandeur of classical style, this exhibition sheds light on the different experiments undertaken to regenerate artistic forms and themes.

One hundred and fifty works — paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, decorative arts — featured in the exhibition illustrate the processes of innovation, emulation and even resistance to the classical in eighteenth-century Europe.

Newly excavated archeological vestiges in the 1720–30s fueled debate in European academies and intellectual circles. All artistic fields were caught up in the dream of renewal through the classical, as shown in paintings by Mengs, Batoni and Greuze, sculptures by Bouchardon, Falconet and Pajou, engravings by Piranesi, architectural projects by Robert Adam and Soufflot, and furniture designed by Petitot and Chambers.

Counter-movements in the 1750–60s tamed this passion. A “neobaroque” trend emerged under the influence of works by Bernini and Pietro da Cortona, Tiepolo and Solimena, illustrated across Europe by Gandolfi and Fragonard, as well as Goya and the architect Wailly. Models of the sixteenth century like Michelangelo, Correggio, Jules Romain and Jean Goujon inspired a “neomannerist” direction.
Later on, artists such as Fuseli, Sergel and Desprez cultivated what was known as the “Gothic” or “sublime” movement.

A more universal language was established in the last quarter of the century and radicalized under the aegis of heroic values. From sculptures to architectural projects, colossal canvases to towering marbles, European society made no secret of its new aspirations as revolutionary unrest began to stir.

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