Barré's Musée secret : reconstructing nineteenth-century French attitudes towards Roman sexual representation

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2007-12

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Hensley, Tracy Lea

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Abstract

Europeans of the nineteenth century fixated on the sexual artifacts emerging from Campania's soil. This thesis places the first edition of Louis Barré's Musée Secret, published in 1840, in its historical context and explores how it tailors Roman antiquity for French society. Barré based his art historical approach on far-reaching textual analysis. He also accepted that contemporaneous constructions of sexuality extended to classical antiquity. Although widely published, few scholars have given more than passing nod to Barré's contribution and continued influence on modern perceptions of Pompeii. The foreword of this thesis begins with a review of sexual themes during the Enlightenment through the early nineteenth-century. The introduction then defines who Barré was and reviews the few preceding discussions of the Musée Secret. Chapter one sets up the political relationship between Naples and France during the Enlightenment, while explaining the importance of the archaeological excavations for each country's national identity. I also examine the placement of sexual objects within the Portici Museum and the Royal Bourbon Museum, from which Barré's text and images derive. Chapter two deconstructs the Musée Secret and establishes Barré's ideal viewer. The second half then looks at the textual precursors to the Musée Secret, further explaining Barré's tendencies by comparing his text to three other major works. The last chapter finally delves into Barré's views on the writers, artists and engravings in the Musée Secret, concluding with a discussion of certain male and female typologies present in the text.

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