30 November 2021

On Marvels and Stones:
Architectural Dreams and Virtuality
in Late Eighteenth-Century France

Harvard University

Respondent: Emma Letizia Jones (University of Hong Kong)

My research considers a series of case studies that bring into sharp relief the interplay of architectural theory, representation, and praxis with evolving philosophical, theological and aesthetic comprehensions of dreaming in the Enlightenment. In particular, I am looking at Jacques-Guillaume Legrand’s (1753-1807) rationalizing transcription of the licentious architectural dream-romance Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (first edition: Venice, 1499; Legrand edition: Paris, 1804 as Songe de Poliphile), Louis François Petit-Radel’s (1739-1818) classicizing Chapel of the Virgin (Chapelle de la Vierge, 1784) at the church of Saint-Médard, site of the mid-century convulsionary episodes, and Choiseul-Gouffier’s (1752-1817) mobilization of the grotto typology in the plates of his Voyage Pittoresque de la Grèce (1782) as an allegorical vehicle for his diplomatic ideas.

Each of the three episodes foregrounds the embeddedness of architectural expression within a tangled network of spiritual, scientific, and creative expoundings of virtuality through the lenses of individuals who partook in the Enlightenment enterprise. The goal here is to highlight not only the apparent collision of pre-modern metaphysical attitudes with late eighteenth-century rationalism but also, and most importantly, their coalescence, as architecture became increasingly the medium for the reshaping of esoteric dreams into republican visions.

* * *

Botany of Red:
The Original Crimson Carpet
of the West Asian Plains

ETH Zurich

Respondent: Damla Göre (gta, ETH Zurich)

Detail of a 16th century silk brocade panel with 'quatre fleur' motif attributed to Turkey, Bursa. Credit: MET Collections, Accession Number 15.125.9, Rogers Fund, 1915.

If not botanically at least culturally the phrase “red carpet” is likely to escape few. But the notion of rolling out a red carpet, associated with luxury and prestige, is more than a theatrical gesture - at least as performed by humans; for millennia Spring has performed a similar display on the rocky slopes of the Alborz and Zagros mountains, stretching from the Iranian to the Anatolian Plateau as a continuous geomorphological range. This mountainous region known to ecologists and botanists as the Irano-Anatolian biodiversity hotspot, likewise became the site of a shifting imperial borderland between Persians and Turks in the early modern period. Sharing a climate, a native flora, and a faith (following the Muslim conquest), neither failed to notice the annual reoccurrence of flowering crimson carpets in springtime and readily incorporated it into their garden tradition and artistic legacy. Through centuries of cultivation, these ephemeral mats featuring flowers of the “red guild” would be translated into lasting impressions: carpets, tiles, and other decorative wall coverings would replicate and multiply these red grounds in court gardens and interiors.

As a doctoral candidate within the LUS Institute at the ETH Zürich, this presentation tests the first chapter of my ongoing dissertation project “Turkey Red: Ottoman Decorative Arts at the Root of the 'Parterre de fleurs’” by establishing the original – botanical – red ground on which subsequent chapters elaborate through the decorative arts and garden design of the Safavids, Ottomans, and eventually Europeans.

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