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Water and Fire in the representations of power in Early Modern Europe

24 mar 2017 09:45 - 17:30
23/03 :
Salle des Actes
45 rue d'Ulm
75005 Paris

24/03 :
Institut d'études avancées de Paris
Hôtel de Lauzun
17 quai d'Anjou
75004 Paris

International conference organized by Dénes HARAI (IHMC, Panthéon-Sorbonne University) and Gaëlle LAFAGE (Paris-Sorbonne University), with the support of the Paris IAS, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Institut d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine, École Normale Supérieure, CNRS, PSL, and HeSam University.


On the occasion of the third centenary of the death of Louis XIV, the Sun King was commemorated as the “king of fire.” Grand and musical, the “waters” of the Palace of Versailles provided and continue to provide the setting for the festivities and spectacles in accordance with the initial intentions of the Palace’s creators and the use of the estate. Recent research has shown that water and fire – elements which have been most often studied separately in the field of representations – were frequently associated in order to display the omnipotence of political power.

The novelty of this conference lies in the exploration of modalities of this association in representations (writing, painting, sculpture, architecture, medals, etc.) generated by political power (be it papal, episcopal, royal, princely, noble, or urban) in Early Modern Europe (16th-18th centuries). The articulation of water and fire will be examined by each speaker in a work or a series of works, which can be of different natures.

Given the fact that the objective of this conference is to apply an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of political representations, historians, historians of arts, literature and performance will be brought together around three axes of inquiry to investigate the following questions:

  1. Contexts and environments:In which contexts were the representations associating water and fire commissioned and created? Can they be linked to particular events: wars, building of a strong state power, catastrophes (floods and fires)? Was the articulation of the two elements more frequent in monarchies than in republics? Was it specific to a heroic way of thinking of the Baroque era or was it also a phenomenon during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment? In what kind of environments (closed and/or open, stable and enduring or mobile and ephemeral) were these elements associated?
  2. Oppositions and complementarities:To what extent did water enhance fire and vice-versa in the representations of power? Is it possible to distinguish the systematic domination of one element by the other? Were there particular contexts, environments and/or processes that lent themselves to displaying oppositions and complementarities between water and fire? The place of fire fountains and water fireworks is emblematic from this point of view and invites further inquiries while not excluding others.
  3. Perceptions and receptions: How was the articulation of water and fire perceived by contemporaries (in books, diaries, memoirs and correspondences)? How did depositaries of power assess the representations that they commissioned? How did posterity regard representations of political power using water and fire?

At the end of the conference, it will be possible to have a global view of the sources and references used in Early Modern Europe to represent political power through the association of water and fire. This global view will be a European one due to comparative analysis of case studies presented by the speakers. The conference will also shed light on the methodology that scholars of various Humanities disciplines (History, Art History, Literature) use in order to investigate an interdisciplinary topic which has not yet been explored because of the complexity of its interdisciplinary nature.



Thursday, March 23, 2017
École Normale Supérieure

9h30 - 9h45  Welcome

9h45 - 10h30  Introduction
Dénes HARAI - Gaëlle LAFAGE

Session 1 - Contexts and environments
Margaret SHEWRING (University of Warwick)

10h30 - 11h00  Principes contraires, dons du Ciel et puissants éléments : l'eau et le feu dans les devises princières de l'Europe des XVe et XVIe sièclesLaurent HABLOT (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

11h30 - 11h45  Discussion

11h45 - 13h30  Lunch break

13h30 - 14h00  Water, Fire, and the Mutability of Nature to the Power of the Ruler in late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth century German Court Festivals
Richard MORRIS (University of Cambridge)

14h00 - 14h30  The Destructive Power of Fire and Water in the Representation of Naval Battles in 16th Century Art and Festivals
Felicia M. ELSE (Gettysburg College)

14h30 - 14h45  Discussion

14h45 - 15h00  Break

15h00 - 15h30  Le dauphin et la fée. Conjurer le feu par l’eau dans Le Ballet Comique de la Reine de Beaujoyeulx (1581)
Adeline LIONETTO (Université Paris-Sorbonne)

15h30 - 16h00  Beneath the ‘Grande Mer du Louvre’, or the mixing of metaphors in politico-allegorical space
Maria NEKLYUDOVA (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration)

16h00 - 16h30  L'eau et le feu dans Phèdre de Jean Racine au miroir de la société louis-quatorzienne
Marine DEREGNONCOURT (Université Catholique de Louvain)

16h30 - 17h00  Discussion


Friday, March 24, 2017
Institut d'études avancées de Paris

9h45 - 10h00  Welcome

Session 2 - Oppositions and complementarities
Hendrik ZIEGLER (Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne)

10h00 - 10h30  La pensée binaire et la représentation du pouvoir : l’eau et le feu dans le portrait de Gabriel Bethlen, prince de Transylvanie (1613-1629)
Dénes HARAI (IHMC, UMR8066 ENS-CNRS-Paris 1)

10h30 - 11h00  De soleil, d’eau et de feu : Le duc Charles IV de Lorraine et le Combat à la Barrière
Vincent DOROTHÉE (Université Panthéon-Sorbonne)

11h00 - 11h30  L’eau et le feu. L’union des contraires dans les entrées du jeune Louis XIV (1653-1660)
Gérard SABATIER (Université Grenoble II)

11h30 - 11h45  Discussion

11h45 - 13h30  Lunch break

Session 3 - Perceptions and receptions
Gabriel GUARINO (Ulster University)

13h30 - 14h00  Fire and water on the Seine : the Venetian ambassador’s fireworks party
Philippa WOODCOCK (Oxford Brookes University / University of Warwick)

14h00 - 14h30  A Stage is on Fire : Isabel of Borbón’s Likes and Dislikes of the Spanish Court
Carmela MATTZA (Louisiana State University)

14h30 - 14h45  Discussion

14h45 - 15h00  Break

15h00 - 15h30  D’eau et de feu : l’imaginaire du pouvoir monarchique dans les représentations des feux d’artifice tirés sur la Seine au XVIIIe siècle
Pauline VALADE (Université Bordeaux Montaigne)

15h30 - 16h00  Le « beau » et le « sublime » dans les Salons de Diderot à travers l’image de l’eau et du feu : analyse des peintures de Vernet
Enikő SZABOLCS (Université de Szeged)

16h00 - 16h30  Discussion

16h30 - 17h00  Conclusions
Dénes HARAI - Gaëlle LAFAGE

More informations (conference's website)

Registration required: eauetfeu2017@gmail.com

24 Mar 2017 17:30
Conferences and workshops
Modern period (1492-1789)
Western Europe