Decoration and Nostalgia - Historical Study on Visual Matrices and Forms of Diffusion of Fêtes Galantes in the 20th Century

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Conference Proceedings
Authors: Vânia Carneiro De Carvalho

Abstract: In São Paulo/Brazil, between the years 1950 and 1980, porcelain sculptures representing courtesy scenes were fashionable in wealthy and middle-class homes. Several Brazilian factories started to produce such images and many others were imported, the most of them from Germany. These representations were inspired by the fêtes gallants, a rococo style genre from the 18th century. Factories like Meissen, Limoges and Capodimonte produced thousands of copies which circulated in Western Europe and the Russian Empire. During the 19th century, from French institutional policies, the fêtes galantes were revalued along with the recovery of the rococo. This political and cultural movement resulted not only in domestic interiors decorated with authentic pieces from the 18th century gathered together by collectors, but also in the production of new objects. Following decorative practices, studies anachronistically reclassified 18th artisans as artists, constructing their biographies, circumscribing their peculiarities, and identifying their works. Many pieces from the privates collections ended in museums. The porcelain aristocratic figures won the world and are produced until today. It was at the end of the 19th century, in the region of Thuringia, that the technique of lace porcelain emerged. Produced by women in a male-dominated environment, the technique involved the use of cotton fabric soaked with porcelain mass which was then sewed and molded over the porcelain bodies of male and female figures. After that, the piece was placed in the oven at high temperature, burning the fabric and leaving the lace porcelain. It is significant and relevant for the purposes of this research that the lace porcelain technique was never recognized as a object of interest by the academic literature on porcelain. It is likely that the presence of the female labor, the practice of sewing and the use of fabric have been interpreted by the male academic and amateur elite as discredit elements. Added to this, the lace porcelain became very popular in the 20th century. The reinterpretation of rococo in the 20th century was also understood as a lack of artistic inventiveness associated with marketing interests, which resulted in the marginalization of these sculptures. What is proposed here is to study these objects as pieces of domestic decoration practices, recognizing in them capacities to act on the production of social, age and gender distinctions. I intend, therefore, to demonstrate how these small and seemingly insignificant objects were associated with decorative practices of fixing women in the domestic space in Brazil during the 20th century. They acted not alone but in connection with other contemporary phenomena such as post-war fashion, the glamorization of personalities from the American movie and European aristocracy and the rise of Disney movies, which promoted the gallant pair as a romantic idea for children in the western world.

Keywords: Material culture, Domestic space, Lace porcelain, Fêtes galants porcelain, Domestic interiors, Decoration

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001365

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