Resonance of the Republic: England 1660 and France 1831

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This paper explores an exhibition and an accompanying book, shown and published at the Musee des Beaux Art in Nimes in November 2007. This was a museological/artistic ‘intervention’ around Delaroche’s painting, Cromwell contemplating the beheaded corpse of Charles 1st in his coffin, of 1831. This paper argues a case for a contemporary historiographic art practice. Focussing on this exhibition, the paper explores the history of Cromwell’s head disinterred in 1660, preserved as a curiosity and exhibited in 1799, reburied in 1960, and attempts to address issues of memory, personal reminiscence, and the ghosts and disturbances of childhood stories and myths in the construction of history. It connects contemporaneous myth making such as a pamphlet of 1720 recycling a story of how Cromwell sold his soul to the devil with more recent 20th century versions such as Cromwell as a baby being carried off by the household’s pet monkey! Delaroche’s painting holds a prime place in the Musée at Nimes for a number of reasons, which the paper explores. Fictional reconstruction in the writing and rewriting of history and the visualisation of exhibition making are thus brought together as a mechanism to reveal contemporary meaning about Britain’s republican past. The images and texts created for the exhibition are explored in the paper, including a video of Cromwell’s head twitching into ghostly life against Delaroche’s famous painting of Cromwell viewing the consequences of what the French refer to as the ‘razor!’ It therefore brings together an interest in the periods 1649, 1660, 1799, 1830/1, 1960, blending historiography and contemporary art practice/curatorship.


Keywords: Historiography, Art Practice, Museology, Intervention
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Resonance of the Republic: England 1660 and France 1831


Peter Seddon

Reader in Arts Practice and Historiography and Director of the Arts Practices and Performance Research Institute, School of Arts and Communication, University of Brighton
Brighton, UK

Peter Seddon is an artist writer and academic, involved with a recently formed research group at the University of Brighton consisting of a loose association of staff interested in the rise of the curator and what that means for contemporary art practice. It has organised a number of research seminars over the last two years with invited speakers working in this area of expanded practice amongst them James Putnam, Gerrie Van Noord, Tim Brennan, Yunikis Villa Longa, Sophie Hope, Andrew Wheatley, and John Murphy. The group also organised an artist’s intervention into the Regency town house in Brighton by the artist John Murphy in May 2004. His publications include 'Representing History', Manchester University Press 200 and the curation of Civilwar@rochdale 2003, Tête-`a-Tête at Nimes Musée des Beaux Art, 2007, and William Kentridge 'Fragile Identities', University of Brighton Gallery 2007.

Ref: A09P0581