Revolution in Translation: Transnationalism and Nineteenth-Century French Visual Culture

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Exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1850, the International Exhibition of 1855 in Paris, at the 1860 French Exhibition in Pall Mall in London, and at the New York Metropolitan Sanitary Fair in 1864, Muller’s "The Last Roll Call of the Victims of the Reign of Terror" (1850), its reduced replicas, and reproductive prints were remarkably popular in Europe and America.

This paper will focus on the dynamic relations between the meaning of Muller’s work, its exhibition space, and its medium as they underwent processes of cultural and formal transformations in the course of the painting’s reproduction and international circulation. Despite its national historical subject matter, I will suggest that these ‘translations’ allowed Muller’s depiction of the French Revolution to be perceived transnationally as a realistic vision of history.

At the Paris Salon of 1850, Muller’s "Last Roll Call" was easily recognized as a politically conservative interpretation of the June days of 1848. However, the international reception of The Last Roll Call of the Victims of the Reign of Terror demonstrates a strong preoccupation with the realism of Muller’s depiction of revolutionary events. Focusing on three well-documented exhibitions in Paris, London and New York, I will argue that this common perception of Muller’s representation as ‘real’ did not result from the establishment of universal criteria for the representation of history in the European and American art critique of the 1860s. Rather, the ability of Müller’s representation to appear ‘real’ was deeply subjective and related both to its formal characteristics and to local concerns. The Last Roll Call’s perceived realism can thus be seen as the outcome of the painting’s adaptability to local historical circumstances and of the emergence of a transnational visual culture of reproductive images, in which Muller’s painting participated.


Keywords: Transnationalism, Translation, Exhibition, Reproduction, Realism
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Marie-Stephanie Delamaire

Ph. D. Candidate, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
New York, New York, USA

I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Art History at Columbia University, New York. My dissertation project "Transatlantic Encounters: Franco-American exchanges in the 1850s and 1860s" has been awarded a Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution and a Swann Foundation Grant from the Library of Congress. My research interests focus on transnational exchanges in relation to the emerging apparatus of international exhibitions and to the development of reproductive technology in nineteenth century visual culture. I graduated with a Master's Degree in the History of Egyptian Archaeology from l'Ecole du Louvre in Paris. My thesis examined the representation of Ancient Egypt at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. I have published several essays on the 1867 Paris Exposition universelle and the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition.

Ref: A09P0395