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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

Defrocking Diana: A Study of Jean-Marc Nattier's "Portrait of a Woman as Diana"

Jean-Marc Nattier’s Portrait of a Woman as Diana (1752) was executed at the height of his career as a painter in the court of Louis XV. A celebrity among the French elite, Nattier enjoyed the patronage of both the female nobility and bourgeoisie, whom he often portrayed in the guise of Roman deities. In my paper I prove how Nattier’s Portrait of a Woman as Diana reflects the dual roles placed upon these women during the eighteenth century. While in the public sphere she was expected to carry on as a maiden, in the private realm a man anticipated the woman’s acceptance of his company and advances. From an early age elite women were taught the Christian values of virtue and chastity. However, the life at the court of Louis XV reflected the king’s promiscuous nature. As was the case for many mythological themed paintings, visual and literary art reflected societies taste for eroticism. Diana was a popular subject that permeated the salons of the eighteenth century, with artists focusing on the stories of the goddesses’ encounter with the voyeur Actaeon and her love affair as Selene with the shepherd Endymion. Through an examination of Nattier’s painting, I highlight how the dual identities of Diana – as both the huntress and moon goddess- are presented in the work, calling attention to how the goddesses’ two personalities exemplify the contradictory expectations imposed upon women courtiers.

Presenter: Valerie Clark (Case Western Reserve University) --
Topic: Art History - Panel
Location: 107 Edwards
Time: 10:45 am (Session II)