Melbourne Masterclass: Paris is the World
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“Paris is the world,” wrote Marivaux in 1734. “The rest of the earth is merely its suburbs.” His soaring elegy to the French capital captured the city’s central place in the imagination of the Enlightenment. This masterclass will examine how Paris became synonymous with gleaming architectural wonders, harmonious facades and numerous public squares, in the context of France’s social, political and cultural upheavals during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Beginning with Henri IV’s and Louis le Grand’s search for urban grandeur, Paris was transformed by and for its elites into a new Rome. At the same time, a Paris of the people, particularly in the overcrowded ghettos of the city centre, was repeatedly condemned as insalubrious and ripe only for the spread of infectious disease and seditious ideas. This other Paris was repeatedly condemned as a new Babylon. For the heart of Paris was still a horribly medieval city, wrote Voltaire in 1749, in which the creations of France’s greatest architects were marred by narrow, filthy streets and crumbling houses worthy of “barbarians and vandals”. At the time of the French Revolution, Parisians revolted against these social ills that were those of modernity itself.
Presented by internationally renowned historians and notable curator of International Art from the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), this Melbourne Masterclass is held at the University of Melbourne and the NGV over five consecutive days with a combination of lectures, interactive and facilitated discussions, with the integration of objects and artworks in select presentations.