CFP: National Personifications in Early Modern Europe (Paris; 29-31 March 2016)

Paris, March 29 - 31, 2016
Deadline: Jul 26, 2015
Planned venue: German Historical Institute Paris, 8, rue du Parc-Royal, 75003 Paris

Virgins, Wives, Mothers. National Personifications in Early Modern Europe
Colloquium at the German Historical Institute Paris, spring 2016
Organisation: Rainer Babel, Christine Gouzi, Thomas Kirchner, Thomas Maissen, Jean-François Dubost

Following on the work carried out by Maurice Agulhon comprehensive research has been conducted into the French national allegory “Marianne” and her sisters in other nation-states in modern times. With respect to the period before the French Revolution, however, there are still very few studies of such personifications of the state or political entities, to say nothing of comparative approaches examining these various allegories together. This is despite the fact that they have common roots, which frequently go back to antiquity. Roman coins, for example, featured towns or regions in the form of female figures. The goddess Minerva, in particular, served as an iconographic model for such depictions, which were then taken up again in the Renaissance and ultimately handed down through Cesare Ripa’s famous Iconologia. Christian theology contributed to the development of this symbolic representation by introducing another chaste female figure: the image of the Virgin Mary, queen of heaven, mother and saint, could thus become a symbol of monarchy or of the early modern state, especially in connection with the motif of the hortus conclusus, the enclosed garden, which likewise symbolises sovereign territory. Within these pictorial traditions, the correlation between which has yet to be investigated, such personifications can be interpreted not only as virgins but also as wives (of the ruler) or mothers (of the nation). This secularisation of the iconography, which often supplements rather than replaces its religious content, has precursors in the late Middle Ages. These personifications thus served the purpose of glorification and then of political propaganda, especially when the concept of sovereignty was developed.

This colloquium will examine the creation and use of state or national personifications in the period from the 13th to the 18th century together with relating pictorial symbolism and gender-theory perspectives. Consideration will be given to both republics and monarchies, especially Venice, Genoa and the other Italian city states, the United Netherlands, the Swiss Confederation, Poland and Russia, the Holy Roman Empire and its various territorial states, France, the Iberian monarchy, England and the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden as well as the United States at the time of its emergence. This subject, which is multi- and interdisciplinary by definition, is aimed at historians and art historians as well as researchers from the fields of theology, political philosophy, law, classical studies and gender studies.

This call for papers is an invitation to researchers to propose topics for the colloquium. Please send your proposal (approx. one page) together with a short curriculum vitae and a few literature references to personnification@dhi-paris.fr by 26 July 2015 at the latest. Early-stage researchers, who are examining relevant issues in their master’s thesis, dissertation or as post-docs, are expressly invited to attend. The speakers’ travel and accommodation costs will be reimbursed.

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