Call for Papers – Painted Gladiatrices: Women, Art and the Eighteenth-Century Social Arena

Abstract deadline 9 October 2012. Conference 11-13 April 2013, University of Reading

39th Annual Association of Art Historians Conference and Bookfair

In an oft-quoted letter from 29 July, 1782 to Fanny Burney, Edmund Burke comments on how he lives ‘in an age distinguished by producing extraordinary women.’ Burke has proved his powers of foresight, for it is difficult to speak of the eighteenth century without mention of at least one woman who made a significant impact on European history.  How were so many women able to step beyond their conventional roles and cause those such as Burke to take notice?

This session will explore the development/creation of women’s social images through art in the eighteenth century.  What were the relationships between social and visual images of women? Of particular interest is how art conveyed women’s roles in the social spectrum. Recently, historians such as Robert Darnton and Nicholas Hammond have drawn attention to the importance, prevalence and power of gossip in this period, while recent exhibitions including Royalists to Romantics (NMWA 2012) and Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman (Cincinnati, 2010) have highlighted the importance of eighteenth-century women and art. This session will consider women’s relationship in the fierce social arena of the eighteenth century and the role art played within it.

Possible Topics may include

  • Power of images on women’s public persona/reputation
  • Public gossip prompted by the image of women
  • Female friendships in art
  • How women controlled or took advantage of their visual portrayals
  • Contemporary depictions of the eighteenth-century woman
  • Dress as a means of communication
  • The press’ influence in the exhibition
  • The role of art as gossip

Session Convenors:
Heather Carroll
, University of Edinburgh:
Lauren Puzier
, Sotheby’s Institute of Art:

Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to the convenors by 9 October 2012

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