Visual Analysis Essay
In the last half of the 18th century there appeared a new age which was named the age of enlightenment. The eighteenth century was an essential transitional century where many revolutions and empirical philosophers that had introduced fundamentally better approaches for viewing the world in different perspectives. The last half 18th century saw the introduction of a whole new modern world. The qualities of the Enlightenment are a skepticism towards the tenets of the church, individualism, a reason that science and the exploratory technique, the utilization of reason, that education could be an impetus of social change and the interest for political portrayal.
Seated Voltaire was a statue made by Jean-Antoine Houdon, who was a French preeminent sculptor during the Age of Enlightenment. Houdon experimented on different styles on his types of work such as Baroque, Neoclassical, and Rococo, but his main characteristic was classicism/realism and Enlightenment empiricism. Houdon created his modeled sculptures with clay but there were also versions of his sculptures which were made of bronze, marble, or plaster. Seated Voltaire was created in 1778, and portrays of Voltaire, who’s real name François-Marie Arouet but also known by his pen name Voltaire, was a historian, philosopher, and was a French Enlightenment writer, and was also was well known for his mind, his feedback of Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church, and his promotion of opportunity of religion, the right to speak freely and partition of chapel and state. In this work Houdon includes realism
and shows him as a frail old man that’s wearing a toga, sitting on an antique style of a chair and this references to the style of the renaissance and classical antiquity. Seated Voltaire doesn’t show Voltaire as an idealized figure but instead as old philosopher with his body arched downward with his shoulders as well, with his deep wrinkles on his faces, and his sagging skin. All this depicts how frail he is and his age and doesn’t in any way give him non-idealized features. This sculpture also includes chiaroscuro between his folds of his clothes.
During this time in the Age of Enlightenment, this work embodies political, cultural and religious at the time it was made. The French Revolution of 1789 has been linked frequently towards the Enlightenment era. One of the goals of the French Revolution was that they envisioned to throw out the old authorities to remold society along the lines of reasoning, logic, and science but later developed into a bloody revolution. Voltaire found inspirations from other philosophers such as John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton.
For religion, this meant shifting between ideas, the theologians of the enlightenment needed to restructure their belief to a non-confrontational root and to limit the capacity of religious controversy. Enlightenment scholars sought to reform the political power of organized religion to prevent another religious war. New ideas of religion developed with the Age of Enlightenment such as deism and little talk about atheism. Deism is the belief in a God but without the reference of the bible or any other sources such as that. In deism, they believed that God exists but doesn’t interfere with the universe itself and stresses the importance of ethical and logical reasoning.
This sculpture of Seated Voltaire played a major role during the Age of Enlightenment and carries so much history behind the sculpture itself of what was happening during the time it was being constructed. I personally think that this sculpture is dedicated towards Voltaire and to rejoice his new ideas that he brought forth towards western Europe and to change our way of thinking from belief in superstition to logic, science, and reason.
Visual Analysis Essay