During the classical era some very important things began to happen. This was the age of Enlightenment as well as the French and American Revolutions. I’ll be focusing more on The two revolutions. Through past blogs its easy to see how small changes were taking place. People wanted more freedom, first from Catholic Churches and in the 1700s more freedom and choice in their government. People began to have more opinions and those opinions started to leak out in public shows. Mostly due to the huge impact of The American Revolution. It began small as theaters were being restricted and actors had to perform for free in order to perform at all. Some plays were even banned due to government not liking what they were doing which was mostly poking fun and harsh truths about their kings and queens but also Christianity. “The Golden Rump” for example. Sadly it is not certain if this play was even real or if it was invented by government to support their want to censor plays. This particular play was said to have been written by Henry Fielding but no evidence supports this. Henry was a famous play-writer who often poked fun at the king. His play “Rape Upon Rape” was a comedy but hinted at robbing people of freedom and the corruptness of the justice system. This play was first performed at the Haymarket Theatre on June 23, 1730. As said by Wikipedia “When two characters are accused of rape, they deal with the corrupt judge in separate manners. Though the play was influenced by the rape case of Colonel Francis Charteris, it used “rape” as an allegory to describe all abuses of freedom, as well as the corruption of power, though it was meant in a comedic, farcical manner.” Later on this play was altered and it’s title changed two more times to try and find a better audience. It failed in that quest as the revised versions didn’t have the same quality as the original. I have to say that for this it was a clear choice to use as an example. What better way to state an opinion other than humor? I have to wonder how this all went about as a funny play seeing as how rape is the meat of the plot. I keep picturing slap-stick humor. I think it was very smart that Henry used rape in such a way that he was able to entertain with the topic but also hint at the justice system and government were raping the people.
This new attitude and challenging of government was sparked by the American Revolution. The move into that revolution changed a lot of opinions of the people. The Painting “The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown” by John Trumbull 1828. First sketched in Yorktown in the late 1700s. This painting shows General Benjamin Lincoln astride his horse walking between the lines of his shoulders. Americans on the right and French on the left. The American Revolution was assisted by the French. King Louis XVI who sent aid to show France’s strength to the British. I chose this particular painting because it is not particularly bloody but has this calm pride and a sense of victory. It has much more emotion in it than other paintings I had found on my searchings. Although this painting was not finished until the 1800s it was started with a sketch in 1787. In this painting the Lord Cornwallis, who was not really there during the actual event, surrendered to General Lincoln and his troops. This is a very strong painting for America’s history. It was one of the big of the big steps to becoming an independent nation. General George Washington is also pictured here. He is on a brown horse towards the back. I also like the smoke in the background. It add intensity. As Said by Architect of the Capital “The blue sky filled with dark clouds and the broken cannon suggest the battles that led to this event.” I find the emotions of the horses to be interesting as well. They seem to be hyper in anticipation of a fight they didn’t get to see. Horses closer to the flag seem to be more swan-like in neck positions. Perhaps the artist wanted them to bow their heads to the flag?
The American Revolution was helped by France. Louis XVI sent aid to the Americans to aid them to show their strength to the British as I said earlier. The young king and queen of France had bitten off a bit more than they could chew as the queen Marie Antoinette had a rock-star lifestyle and spent a good amount of money and time gambling and partying. This coupled with the finacial strain of sending troops to America caused a bread-shortage. The people of France became very upset and started their own revolution. They used Marie Antoinette as a scapegoat and blamed her for their lack of food. Of course the rumor that the queen had said “Let them eat cake.” during the bread-shortage fueled the anger of the people. Reportedly she never stated that. This portrait “Archduchess Marie Antoinette, Queen of France” (1755-1793) This work was created by Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun in France.
This is a perfect example of Marie Antoinette. She was beautiful and extravagant. She was lady like and had a strong presence. This painting is romanticized with the effect of soft lighting and the flower she is holding. The bows on her dress add a youth to her. It seems the bust above her is glaring her down. An interesting element to this painting. Perhaps La Brun could sense what was coming?
In her earlier years before becoming queen the people of France felt a dislike for her due to her not consummating her marriage with Louis and not producing an heir to the throne in a timely manner. The king and queen were captured after their castle was stormed by an angry mob. The king was killed first and months later Marie Antoinette was beheaded. As said by Wikipedia “her hair was cut off and she was driven through Paris in an open cart, wearing a plain white dress. At 12:15 p.m., two and a half weeks before her thirty-eighth birthday, she was beheaded at the Place de la Révolution.” This launched The French Revolution.