June 28, 2017
Dear Members of the Faculty Development Committee and Academic Affairs Office,
Thanks to the generous support of a 2017 Faculty Development Grant Award I was able to pursue two research projects this June in Madrid and Lisbon. The first builds on research I pursued early last summer on the figure of the 19th-century equestrienne (an amazone in French). In Madrid, I was able to study closely Edouard Manet's 1882 Amazone at the Museo Thyssen-Bomemisza (Fig. 1). This is one Manet's last major works and the most important in his series depicting the vexing and transgressive equestrienne in her severe, tailored, masculine dress. Manet's importance as the leader of the Realist and Impressionist schools make consideration of his treatment of the amazone essential to my book chapter (which is part of my larger manuscript, Women in Black: Modern Women, Modern Art, & the Paris Salon, 1864-1884). Seeing the work in person revealed several new facets to me, including about her choice of accessories (a handkerchief rather than a riding crop as many have suggested previously) and about Manet's manner of handling the paint.
In both Madrid and Lisbon, I was also able to see many important 19th-century male portraits including several by Edgar Degas as well as more conventional examples, which will form the basis of my invited talk at the Nineteenth-Century French Studies conference this Fall (November 9- 11, 2017) "Making the Modem Man: Fashion and Male Portraiture in Impressionist Paris." In Madrid at the Museo del Prado and Museo Nacional del Romanticismo, I examined portraits by Federico de Madrazo y Kiintz, Raimundo de Madrazo and Thomas Lawrence. Both Madrazos were leading male portraitists during the Impressionist era, but due to their Spanish nationality (and the father's directorship of the Prado) the majority of their works are held in Spain. While the Prado does not allow photography, I had the opportunity to study the portraits closely first-hand, observing fashion details as well as nuances of color, technique and brushwork that are imperceptible in reproduction. Degas's Self Portrait and portrait of fellow artist Henri Michel-Levy at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon also revealed themselves in surprising ways-among them, the scale of both works proved quite different than my expectations, underlining how essential in-person observation is.
While in Madrid and Lisbon, my research and teaching also benefited immensely from the opportunity to see the vast historical holdings of the Museo del Traje (Madrid) and Museu Nacional do Traje (Lisbon). It is exceedingly rare to be able to see period garments, but both national costume collections have permanent historical galleries where I was able to document details of dress and construction. In Lisbon, the garments were viewable at 360 degrees and not under glass, which was a remarkable opportunity--especially for the rare 18th century pieces. All this vital primary research supports not only my book chapter on the amazone and future book project on 19th-century men and fashion, bu t also my upcoming conference lecture and my teaching of art and fashion history here at FIT.
Thank you so much for your support,
History of Art Department