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Politics & Portraits in the United States & France during the Age of Revolution

T. Lawrence Larkin (éd.)

T. Lawrence Larkin, Politics & Portraits in the United States & France during the Age of Revolution (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2019; ISBN-10 1944466207, ISBN-13 978-1944466206), 304 pp.

Between the War of Independence of 1776 and the War of 1812, the United States maintained a complicated and tense political relationship with Britain and France, affecting patterns of trade and diplomacy, cultural representation, and consumption on both sides of the Atlantic. The transition from monarchical to republican forms of government was accompanied by a shift from aristocrats to citizens as the primary patrons, artists, subjects, and viewers of portraits. For this reason, images of heads of state, delegates, and their families often reveal an uneasy integration of old aristocratic forms and new republican values.

To mark the bicentennial of the August 1814 invasion of Washington, D.C., and the burning of the U.S. Capitol by British forces, portrait scholars from the United States, Canada, France, and Germany gathered at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery for a broad discussion about political portraiture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Their essays in Politics and Portraits in the United States and France during the Age of Revolution examine representations of major figures such as Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, and James Madison, among others. They also explore how artists portrayed royal, republican, and imperial heads of state to promote authority; national, state, and provincial delegates to express the values of a faction, constituency, or class; and prominent merchants to depict the burgeoning influence of the citizen.