Theses Doctoral

Carmontelle’s Profile Pictures and the Things that Made Them Modern

Bernstein, Margot Danielle

This dissertation analyzes hundreds of portraits on paper by Louis Carrogis called Carmontelle (1717-1806), a major and prolific visual chronicler of his time who captured some of the eighteenth century’s most famous celebrities, including Mozart and Benjamin Franklin. Carmontelle’s portraits are instantly recognizable and ubiquitous, yet they are typically treated as transparent illustrations in histories of the eighteenth century; indeed, the entire corpus of Carmontelle’s drawn likenesses has never been fully catalogued by art historians, let alone iconographically or formally analyzed. In addition to initiating a complete and digital catalogue of the portraits, the dissertation includes a study of Carmontelle’s portraits as constructions of identity, in terms of both their consumer commodity content and their casual drawing medium.

The last scholarly investigation devoted entirely to Carmontelle's portraits, of which there are at least 750, dates to 1902. Since then, major interdisciplinary advances in the study of eighteenth-century consumer culture have made it possible to completely reconsider Carmontelle's medium and subject matter. Drawing upon the example set by recent scholarly attentiveness to the relationship between identity and the performance of identity through the appearance, function, and material makeup of the objects that people owned, used, and displayed, the dissertation argues that both in their content and in their form, Carmontelle’s portraits express Enlightenment individualism and reveal the internal contradictions of royal and aristocratic identity on the verge of the French Revolution.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Higonnet, Anne
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 28, 2020