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GUILLAUME BODINIER AND THE MEANING(S) OF “ITALIANNESS” IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY FRANCE

Introduction

BRIGID MANGANO

A dark-haired, buxom young woman stands in the center of the picture space with her eyes downcast. Clad in an immaculate- ly white gown, she clasps the hand of her mother, who is seated to her right in a chair of upholstered velvet. To the young wom- an’s left stands an olive-skinned peasant, dressed in a green vest and brown tailcoat, his eyes riveted onto her rosy face and his hand on his chest in a gesture of tender devotion. Both this dis- play of affection and the gold ring that adorns the young woman’s fourth finger make it clear to the viewer that a marriage proposal has taken place and that the couple awaits the mother’s blessing. The scene just described corresponds to an 1825 oil painting enti- tled The Marriage Proposal: Costumes from Albano, near Rome (Figure 1) by the relatively obscure French painter Guillaume Bodinier.

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Figure 1.

LaDemande en mariage: costumes d’Albano près de Rome, by Guillaume Bodinier, 1825, oil on canvas, 0.98 m Height x 1.35 m Width, Musée des Beaux-arts, Angers

One of the best-known of his works, it is also one of the finest examples from a series of genre pictures that the artist executed dur- ing the over twenty years of his life that he spent in Italy. These pic- tures are each characterized by a depiction of local Italians engaged in quotidian activities, ranging from the very mundane (such as the drawing of water at a well) to the spiritual (such as the confession of transgressions to a parish priest). Typically, the figures belong to the middle or lower classes and dwell in a rural community: Bodi- nier’s interest did not lie with urbanites or the social elite. Many of his pictures broach issues having to do with Italian social norms and moral codes, while others portray common leisure pursuits or means of subsistence in the countryside. Another category of pictures within Bodinier’s artistic reper- toire is his representations of distinct figure types, encompassing everything from shepherds to peasant girls to fishermen. Like his

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genre pictures, these works are distinguished by a minute attention to regional Italian dress. Unlike the genre pictures, however, their backdrops are much reduced, bereft of almost any topographical or temporal clues. The facial features of the figures are non-idealized, indicating that they were modeled on real individuals. A prime ex- ample of this is Bodinier’s 1826 A Pilgrim (Figure 2), which depicts a weary Italian traveler on his return trip from Santiago de Compos- tela in northwestern Spain.

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Figure 2.

Un Pèlerin, by Guillaume Bodinier, 1826, oil on wood, 0.100 m Height x 0.745 m Width, Musée des Beaux-arts, Angers

He carries with him numerous symbols of the Christian faith, in- cluding a crucifix, a rosary, a shell of Saint James, and a cross of Lor- raine, the latter hung as a pendant around his neck. Implicated in this painting are questions about Italian spirituality and religious practices.

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Certain of the pictures that Bodinier produced while in Italy strad- dle the line between genre scenes and pure landscapes. Although figures are present, they are much less monumental than in The Mar- riage Proposal and are better integrated into their surroundings. The outdoor setting is rendered realistically, but not in scrupulous de- tail. In addition, Bodinier records in a quasi-scientific manner his personal observations and impressions of Italians. Two examples of such crossover pictures are Bodinier’s Young Bathers on a Rock at Ca- pri (Figure 3) of 1826 and his Young Boy on the Beach at Terracina (Figure 4) of 1835.

journal of undergraduate research Certain of the pictures that Bodinier produced while in Italy strad- dle

Figure 3.

Jeunes baigneurs sur un rocher à Capri, by Guillaume Bodinier, 1826, oil on canvas, 0.285m Height x 0.420m Width, Musée des Beaux- arts, Angers

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Figure 4.

Jeune garçon sur la plage de Terracina, by Guillaume Bodinier, 1835, oil on paper mounted on cardboard, 0.295 m Height x 0.372 m Width, Musée des Beaux-arts, Angers

In the former, two children pause from their daytime dip in the Bay of Naples, while in the latter, a lone boy stands barefoot in the sand, framed against the open sea. Both bring to the fore the interac- tions of the subjects with their local environment. In another sequences of pictures, this time using lead pencil as his medium, Bodinier betrays an interest in Italian residential archi- tecture. Certain of his plein air drawings offer close-range views of verandas, wraparound porches, or other notable features of Italian homes, such as his 1824Terrace of a House at Anacapri (Figure 5).

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Figure 5.

Terrasse d’une maison à Anacapri, by Guillaume Bodinier, July 31, 1824, lead pencil on paper, Musée des Beaux-arts, Angers

This particular drawing is accompanied by an inscription indi- cating the location of a well and wash house, just off the terrace. Other drawings were sketched from a more distant vantage point, allowing Bodinier to capture several homes within the same frame. Often, as in his 1825 View of Subiaco (Figure 6), diminutive fig- ures delineated by no more than five or six lines are shown walking through doorways, gazing out from balconies, or conversing with neighbors. Viewed as a whole, these two drawings reveal a strong curiosity about Italian domestic life.

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Figure 6.

Vue de Subiaco, by Guillaume Bodinier, July 17, 1825, lead pencil on paper, Musée des Beaux-arts, Angers

These six pictures will serve as the focal points of my discussion about Bodinier’s contribution to the French understanding of “Itali- anness” in the nineteenth century and the springboards for further inquiries into what “Italianness” meant to Bodinier’s artistic and lit- erary contemporaries. Beginning in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, but truly gaining momentum in April 1796, when Napo- leon Bonaparte crossed the Alps in order to invade Italy, there was a growing awareness amongst French intellectuals of the inherent

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differences between cultures and nations. 1 This awareness was due in large measure to the fracturing of Europe into its modern nation- states and the gradual development of national mentalities within these states. French intellectuals began to pose questions such as:

Which customs and traditions make Italians distinct from French- men? Are certain cultures better than others and, if so, where does Italian culture rank with respect to French culture? Does a correla- tion exist between Italy’s climate and the culture of its inhabitants? Bodinier devoted several decades of his life to answering these que- ries, but his considerable contributions have been largely ignored by scholars of art history, and indeed by the academic community as a whole. This paper will attempt to redress this oversight by situating Bodinier’s representations of the Italian folk within the interdisci- plinary dialogue about Italian alterity 2 that took place in nineteenth- century France. Born in Angers on February 9, 1795, Guillaume Bodinier at- tended two different schools in his hometown before moving to Par- is, a boys-only grammar school and, beginning in 1813, the Military School of Saint Cyr. 3 One year later, he left the Maine-et-Loire region in order to pursue painting professionally and study law, the latter simply to appease his father. 4 In 1816, the politician Louis-Marie de la Révellière introduced Bodinier to his future teacher, the successful neoclassical painter Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, who, however, initially refused to accept him as a student. 5 Thanks to Bodinier’s determina- tion, Guérin eventually relented, granting him permission to use his atelier daily around noon, when his other students were elsewhere. This arrangement persisted until a vacancy finally opened up at the School of Fine Arts in February 1817, at which time Bodinier be- came Guérin’s official pupil. His fellow students included such cel- ebrated names as Théodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix, and Xavier Sigalon, the last of whom he remained especially close to throughout his career. 6 Bodinier’s apprenticeship with Guérin is particularly important because it was Guérin who first afforded Bodinier the opportunity

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to see Italy. In 1822, Guérin was appointed to the directorship of the French Academy in Rome and Bodinier was allowed to accompany him. 7 Both artists resided at the Palazzo Albani, located near the iconic Villa Medici on the Quirinal Hill. 8 There, Bodinier encoun- tered other French painters who were already grappling with the meaning of “Italianness,” including Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, François-Édouard Bertin, and Léopold Robert. 9 Like these artists, Bodinier soon developed an annual routine whereby he spent the winter months in Rome and devoted the remaining three seasons to exploring the Italian countryside. 10 Over the next four and a half years, he visited a large number of towns and cities in the regions of Lazio and Campania, including Albano, Capri, Castel Gondolfo, Civitavecchia, Gaeta, Ischia, Marino, Naples, Ostia, Pompeii, the Pontine Marshes, Subiaco, Terracina, and Velletri. He returned to France only in late autumn 1826. 11 The following year, Bodinier participated in the Parisian Salon for the first time, exhibiting the aforementioned Marriage Proposal:

Costumes from Albano, near Rome and another work entitled A Fam- ily in the Environs of Gaeta, which together earned him a first-class medal. 12 He returned to Rome in 1830, a year after Horace Vernet had begun his term as the director of the French Academy, and stayed until halfway through painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique In- gres’ tenure as director. 13 When not in Rome, Bodinier was revisiting his favorite sites in Italy, including Ischia, Subiaco, and Terracina, and setting foot in some new places, notably Calabria, Civitella, Fra- scati, Olevano, and Palestrina. He returned to France in late 1836, but would find himself back “under the magic sky of Italy” within less than a year’s time. 14 In early summer 1837, Bodinier and Sigalon embarked for Italy together, along the way sojourning through Nîmes and Uzès, both cities in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. 15 Their travel plans were interrupted, however, by a sudden outbreak of cholera, which claimed Sigalon’s life within months and convinced Bodinier to postpone his departure until early winter. 16 Bodinier remained in

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Italy for approximately nine years, residing in the home of his friend and fellow artist, Nicolas-Didier Boguet, from November 1838 on- wards. 17 Although Bodinier did voyage to Ischia, Subiaco, and Ter- racina during this period, the large majority of his stay appears to have been spent in Rome and, as a result, he frequently attended evening sessions of the French Academy. Bodinier left Italy perma- nently in 1846 after having been notified that he had been selected to receive a medal for his Neapolitan Vendetta, exhibited in the Salon earlier that year. 18 Bodinier’s interest in Italian alterity did not diminish once he returned to his place of birth. According to the nineteenth-century French historian Célestin Port, Bodinier deliberately arranged his townhouse in the manner of an Italian villa with “a gallery, veranda, flowers, and antique vases” so that “he could dream of lost horizons at his leisure.” 19 This suggests not only that Bodinier fondly recalled his time in Italy, but also that he was dedicated to truly understand- ing Italianness. In addition, Bodinier continued to produce works featuring the Italian peasantry and terrain until his death at the age of 77 while amassing an extraordinary number of similarly themed works by other artists. 20 Seven months after his passing, when an auction of his collection was held in Angers, comprising some 42 paintings, 219 drawings, and 905 engravings and lithographs, more than one-fifth of the items pertained to Italian subject matter. 21 These numbers make plain that Bodinier’s engagement with the Ital- ian “other” was not confined to the years he lived in Italy, but rather preoccupied him for over half a century. Two years after Guillaume Bodinier’s death in August 1872, his widow Flore donated the contents of his studio, including over 100 paintings and more than 750 drawings, to the Musée des Beaux- arts in Angers, where the majority of his works are still housed to- day. 22 This bequest may inadvertently have contributed to the fact that Bodinier’s name is virtually unknown outside the Anjou region. Bodinier’s artistic obscurity is reflected in the small amount of schol- arship dedicated to his life or artistic output. In 1878, Port allocated

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two pages to Bodinier in his Dictionnaire Historique, Géographique et Biographique de Maine-et-Loire, which is similar in content to the Who’s Who registries that abound today. Port supplies biographical information about Bodinier and cites seventeen paintings of par- ticular merit, but does not elaborate upon the painter’s eagerness to understand Italianness, though this is perhaps to be expected given the scope of the dictionary and the brevity of each entry. Follow- ing this publication, over a century passed without Bodinier hav- ing been studied in any detail by a single scholar. It was not until 2003, when a catalogue was conjointly published by the Dahesh Museum of Art in New York and the French Academy in Rome in honor of the exhibition Maestà di Roma: Da Napoleone all’unità d’I- talia: D’Ingres à Degas, les artistes français à Rome at the Villa Medici, that Bodinier again received some recognition. This book provides color reproductions and descriptions of sixteen of Bodinier’s paint- ings and contextualizes his artistic output within the social milieu of nineteenth-century Rome, taking into account his relationships with other French artists. Two years later, the first-ever exhibition catalogue devoted to Bodinier’s drawings was published by Patrick Le Nouëne, the director of the Musée des Beaux-arts in Angers. Though undeniably important, these recent publications fall short of examining Guillaume Bodinier’s artistic production with respect to the cross-disciplinary dialogue about Italian alterity that dominated French artistic and literary circles for at least three-quar- ters of the nineteenth century. Prior to Napoleon’s invasion of Italy in 1796, the words “Italy” and “Italian nation” had no real mean- ing in international politics: their usage was confined to literary and geographical contexts because, at the time, Italy was subdivided into ten independently governed principalities. 23 Napoleon did away with these principalities, combining them into a smaller number of republics and instituting more centralized modes of governance modeled on the French legal system. 24 As a result, Napoleon, and by extension the French people, were directly implicated in the concep- tualization and implementation of Italianness. This unique position

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held by the French is crucial to remember when considering the paintings and sketches of Italy produced by Bodinier. Also essential is that fact that Napoleon traversed the Alps in 1796 as a conqueror, prepared to subjugate a degenerate people. Historically, the French had not always demonstrated this conde- scension towards the Italians. In fact, for centuries they sought to emulate Italian culture, perhaps most notably during the Renais- sance and Baroque Periods. By the late eighteenth century, however, Italy was regarded as both a provincial nation in decline and a relic of a bygone era. This attitude was made abundantly clear in Napo- leon’s speech to the electoral colleges in Milan in December of 1807, in which he “recalled the past glories of Italy and the decay into which it had fallen” and argued that “much remained to be done to recover the country’s former status.” 25 This mindset filtered down through all levels of French society, and similar attitudes were likely formed by Bodinier’s colleagues. An important question to bear in mind, and one that I will attempt to answer, is whether Bodinier assimilated this mindset and, if so, whether it manifests itself in his scenes of Italy. The same question might be asked of the other French artists who flocked to Rome in waves. They were drawn to Italy for a va- riety of reasons, foremost among which was the restoration of the French Academy between 1795 and 1798. 26 The Academy not only provided artists with a place of lodging, but also encouraged and sometimes financed their travels in the Italian countryside, which they usually undertook in groups of two or three. 27 Other artists were drawn to Italy because they saw themselves as the natural inheritors of the landscape tradition of Claude Lorrain, or because they were enticed by the descriptions in recent Italian travel literature. This paper will situate Guillaume Bodinier within this ongoing conver- sation about the Italian “other.” An examination of the historical events that preluded Bodinier’s three stays in Italy will be followed by an in-depth analysis of the six pictures already introduced. Bodi- nier’s productivity will be framed within the concurrent dialogue in

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French society about culture and climate, Zeitgeist, and empirical knowledge. Ultimately, this paper will argue that from the age of 27 onward Guillaume Bodinier dedicated himself to constructing a narrative of Italian alterity based on his encounters with rural Ital- ians and his responses to the narratives of his contemporaries.

Chapter One: Historical Context

In 1795, the year that Bodinier was born and one year prior to Napoleon’s arrival in the Italian peninsula, the idea of a unified Italy remained a nebulous concept advocated by a small minority of patriots and intellectuals. Italians did not think of themselves as “Italians,” but rather as inhabitants of the Republic of Lucca or the Duchy of Parma. Each principality possessed its own currency, sys- tem of weights and measures, administrative and legal system, and dialect(s), and merchants were required to pay customs duties on imports and exports to other principalities. 28 No national constitu- tion had ever been declared, and political loyalties were highly re- gional in nature. 29 In addition, ecclesiastic privileges were still firmly in place, and the papacy directly controlled much of modern Lazio, Umbria, Emilia Romagna, and Marche, which together formed the Papal States. 30 All this came abruptly to an end with Napoleon’s invasion of the Italian peninsula, beginning with his occupation of Milan in May 1796 and quickly escalating to a prolonged siege of Mantua and a determined campaign in the Papal States. Napoleon’s victo- ries enabled him to dissolve the Italian principalities and to con- solidate their territories under three republican governments — the

Cisalpine, the Roman and the Neapolitan Republics — which came to be known as the Revolutionary Triennium. These republics were short-lived, lasting only twenty-two, eighteen and five months re- spectively, but they set in motion changes that permanently affected the structure of Italian society and the attitude of Italians towards nationhood. 31

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Napoleon left Italy in November 1797 in order to invade Aus- tria, returning roughly three years later, in June 1800. His defeat of the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo in the modern-day re- gion of Piedmont gave him control over much of northern Italy, and within a year and a half he had established the Republic of Italy, with himself as the president. 32 In March 1805, three months after having been crowned emperor at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, Napoleon transformed the nascent Italian republic into the Kingdom of Italy and relegated its status to that of a French depart- ment. 33 The Kingdom remained in effect until April 1814, when Napoleon abdicated the thrones of both France and Italy. 34 During this fourteen-year period, Napoleon pioneered several sweeping changes that radically affected the way in which Italians interacted with and perceived one another. The two most impor- tant of these were the creation of a national army and the introduc- tion of compulsory military enrollment, beginning in August 1802, and the translation of French legislative codes into (Tuscan) Italian in 1806 and their subsequent enforcement in Italy. 35 The move to- wards a common language was expedited by the army, which re- quired its troops “to learn the Tuscan tongue” for the sake of more effective communication and cooperation. 36 Both the erosion of lan- guage barriers and the experience of fighting alongside men from geographically distant regions of Italy, united under one flag, 37 pro- pelled the creation of a national consciousness. 38 Even before the creation of the Republic of Italy, signs of this budding nationalism manifested themselves sporadically through- out the peninsula. In September 1796, four months after Napo- leon’s conquest of Milan, a Milanese by the name of Matteo Galdi authored a treatise entitled “The Need to set up a Republic in Italy.” However, there were also instances in which Italians showed alle- giance to the nominally terminated regional principalities or in- difference to talk of unity. Desmond Gregory recounts an episode from 1814 in which a British commander entreated some Sicilians to “hesitate no longer; be Italians, and let Italy in arms be convinced

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that the great cause of the country is in your hands!” This rhetoric elicited a negligible response amongst those who heard it, indicat- ing that many Italians harbored uncertainties about what national unity and “Italianness” might mean in practice and whether this was a desirable outcome. 39 Some fifty years later, when Hippolyte Taine was sojourning in Rome, he noticed a similar ambivalence and re- marked in his journal: “Do they strongly wish to become Italians? Yes and no.” 40 The development of a sense of national pride and be- longingness amongst Italians was by no means a swift process, but without the experience of Napoleonic rule it might never have come to pass. 41 Given Napoleon’s instrumental role in centralizing the Italian government and providing Italians with the tools necessary to be- come a unified nation, it is keenly ironic that he regarded Italians as cowardly and their culture as degenerate. In his published cor- respondence, he describes Italy as “a very flabby and craven nation” and notes incredulously their lack of enthusiasm for liberty and equality, in contrast to the French. 42 In the eyes of Napoleon and many of his contemporaries, this lukewarm response was evidence of a fall from former glory. Well prior to Napoleon’s rise, however, the perception of Italian culture as debased was already in circulation. It surfaces in Voltaire’s 1752 Le siècle de Louis XIV, in which Voltaire suggests that Italian culture “has now been surpassed and thus lost its importance” and that “if one supports progress and believes in human reason, it is towards France that one must first look.” 43 This discourse of French cultural superiority would likely have affected the way in which French history was taught in school, so that from a young age Guillaume Bodinier and others in his generation would have heard Italy disparaged or even disdained by their instructors. Bearing this in mind, it may seem paradoxical that French art- ists flocked to Italy in such steady numbers. What about Italy was so enticing as to attract all these creative French minds, despite the gen- eral agreement that the importance of Italian culture was waning? The reestablishment of the Academy of France in Rome between

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1795 and 1798 was an important magnetic force. This respected institution was It was “conceived as a school,” which meant that the resident artists were subject to strict rules and regulations: “The resi- dents had to live on the premises, take their meals together at fixed times, [and] obtain permission from the director for all absences.” 44 In spite of these constraints, however, the Academy was never lack- ing for artists. For many in Bodinier’s generation, the opportunity to visit Italy and explore its countryside was “a type of initiatory step,” and the Academy provided the means to realize this voyage. 45 Directors such as Guérin recognized the importance of traveling and executing studies after nature for an artist’s personal growth and self-discovery. 46 Other French artists demonstrated a greater willingness to revise and build upon Claude’s precedent. Like Achille-Etna Michallon, 47 many of them had received neoclassical training and were “educated in the vein of Poussin” prior to coming to Italy. 48 They had been taught to approach representations of nature as a synthesis of a nar- rative, usually derived from mythology or from the Bible, and a so- called composed landscape, one that is “recreated in a way that is more or less imaginary.” 49 However, they were also influenced by the growing discourse about verism and subjectivity in landscape paint- ing. Artists sought to reconcile two impulses that were seemingly in conflict: on the one hand, the desire to empirically observe and realistically reproduce the Italian landscape and, on the other hand, the desire to convey the “emotions felt in front of the spectacle of nature.” 50 In the estimation of many art historians, the artist who went the furthest towards resolving this dichotomy was Michallon’s student, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. 51 During his three stays in It- aly, Corot produced a large quantity of studies that reveal a close at- tention to the “rocks, trees and buildings that animate a landscape,” while at the same time capturing the often pensive or melancholic sensations that such vistas inspired in him. 52 Even artists like Corot who departed considerably from the example of Claude were still indebted to him. They shared his

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conviction that Italy was characterized by a unique combination of

spectacular geographical formations, such as the waterfalls at Tivo-

li and the Alban hills, and vestiges from a golden age. The nine-

teenth-century writer François René de Chateaubriand offers insight

into how French society perceived this relationship. While visiting

various villages in the Roman countryside in 1804, Chateaubriand

wrote to a friend that “this earth… has remained ancient like the ru-

ins that cover her.” 53 As this remark suggests, the French associated

nineteenth-century Italy with the distant past, as though she had not

yet been touched by modernity. Bodinier and his contemporaries

were also influenced by Claude’s numerous paintings of Italian peas-

ants in the countryside, which he produced over the course of five

decades in Italy. These representations emboldened many French

artists to investigate Italian alterity beyond the city limits of Rome.

As the romantic painter Théodore Chassériau asserted in a Septem-

ber 1840 letter to his brother, “It’s not in Rome that we can see real

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I’ve done studies of the countryside, so famous for its beauty

...

It is a [truly] unique thing in the world.” 54

In addition to the reinstatement of the French Academy in

Rome and the desire to carry on the landscape tradition of Claude,

the steady expansion of Italian travel literature also contributed to

the large number of French artists who established temporary resi-

dence in Italy during the nineteenth century. This literature can be

divided into two categories: official guidebooks printed by compa-

nies such as Baedeker and Murray and travel journals kept by French

intellectuals. Described by one scholar as “a cross between a diction-

ary and an encyclopedia,” the guidebooks offered not only practical

information pertaining to lodging, food, transport and leisure, but

also presented readers with value judgments about villages, monu-

ments and locals. 55 A typical comment from Baedeker’s Italie cen-

trale: manuel du voyageur describes the town of Civitavecchia in the

following manner: “The city offers little interest; one could devote

the available time to a walk along the harbor.” 56 Unlike the guide-

books, whose information was culled from multiple sources, travel

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journals were based on the experiences of a single individual. Some

of the journals were compiled from travelers’ daily notes, while oth-

ers were written years after the voyage had taken place. 57 What they

all had in common was the “very significant role” they played in

“perpetuating already established images of Italy and also in creating

new impressions of the Peninsula.” 58 Travel journals reiterated wide-

ly-held associations between Italy and antiquity, while also making

statements about Italian culture and alterity, which helped popular-

ize a stereotype of Italians as passionate, superstitious, and living in

harmony with nature. One of the several questions I will attempt to

answer is to what extent Guillaume Bodinier gave credence to this

stereotype.

As we have seen, Bodinier and his colleagues were drawn to Italy

in the early nineteenth century for a variety of reasons that includ-

ed the reestablishment and relocation of the Academy de France in

Rome, the urge to build upon the landscape tradition of Claude

Lorrain, and the increasing availability of Italian travel literature.

The artists came both during and after Napoleon’s reign as emperor,

at a time when Italians were struggling to accept and adjust to the

radical political and social changes that had been thrust upon them.

Both the French and the Italians themselves were seeking to under-

stand what “Italianness” meant in concrete terms, but I will strictly

focus on how “Italianness” resonated with Guillaume Bodinier and

how this manifests itself in six of his works; The Marriage Proposal

(1825), A Pilgrim (1826), Young Bathers on a Rock at Capri (1826),

Young Boy on the Beach at Terracina (1835), Terrace of a House at

Anacapri (1824), and View of Subiaco (1825).

Chapter Two: Italian Marriage and Spirituality

The previous chapter traced historical developments that sparked

a dialogue about Italian “otherness” within French intellectual and

artistic circles, and located Bodinier temporally within that dialogue.

This section will now narrow in focus, concentrating on the French

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discourse about Italian marital and religious practices through an

analysis of two paintings that Bodinier executed within a year of one

another: his 1825 The Marriage Proposal: Costumes from Albano, near

Rome (Figure 1) and his 1826 A Pilgrim (Figure 2).

Bodinier had already been living in Italy for three years when he

produced The Marriage Proposal. Although the subjects of the paint-

ing are attired in the traditional clothing of Albano, a town south

of Rome in the Alban Hills, an inscription reveals that it was in fact

executed in Rome, and thus in Bodinier’s studio. 59 Sébastien Allard

theorizes that Bodinier selected Albano as the setting of this work in

order to take advantage of the legendary beauty and dark hair of the

local women, made famous by the model Vittoria Caldoni.

Previous scholars have remarked upon the tight framing of

the picture and the close-range view offered to the viewer. This fram-

ing allowed Bodinier to concentrate on the facial expressions and

body language of his figures, from the young man’s heartfelt love

to the young woman’s modesty and deference to her mother. 60 The

physical proximity of the figures and the apparent continuity be-

tween the picture space and the viewer’s space also suggests that the

viewer stands on the terrace, just opposite from the young woman,

as an involuntary witness to an intimate scene. Like the matron and

the fiancé, the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the reserved woman in the

center.

Most intriguing is the choice of subject matter for this painting,

as it suggests that Bodinier sought to convey a message about Ital-

ian sexuality and matrimony. Many of his contemporaries perceived

Italians as an irrational people who allowed their amorous passions

to dictate their behavior. French intellectuals often contrasted this

emotionalism with the more reserved manners of the French, who

preferred to let rationality and social propriety determine their ac-

tions, both in love and in life. Romantic writers such as Germaine de

Staël, Stendhal, and George Sand “believed that true, unadulterated

desire was possible” in Italy, because “the Italians had genuine emo-

tions that were generated from within.” 61 Some Frenchmen went

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so far as to characterize Italy as a place of carnal pleasures, perhaps

partly due to the adventures with Italian courtesans portrayed in the

travel journal of Charles de Brosses. 62

The French perception of Italian sexuality and morality was also

strongly influenced by the Italian tradition of cicisbeismo, in which

a young bachelor was placed in the service of a married woman for

the purpose of accompanying her to public events and assisting her

at home, “invariably in the absence of her husband.” 63 Despite the

fact that the relationship between the matron and her attendant

was meant to be platonic, and although the woman’s husband often

played an active role in selecting the cicisbei, 64 both the French and

the English were censorious of the custom. In Germaine de Staël’s

1807 novel Corinne, ou l’Italie, one of the main characters — an

Englishman by the name of Oswald — assumes sexual intercourse

was a frequent occurrence in such an arrangement. This assumption

was shared by de Staël and many of her contemporaries, to the extent

that “Italian wives… acquired an international reputation for ex-

traordinary liberty.” 65 Certain nineteenth-century scholars conclud-

ed that Italian women were altogether incapable of so-called “moral

love,” a love enduring, intimate, and not exclusively physical. 66

French historian Hippolyte Taine recorded his observations

about Italian marital norms during an 1864 visit to the coastal city

of Naples. Although he does not mention the tradition of cicisbeismo

in his travel journal, Taine echoes earlier scholars by drawing atten-

tion to the strength of Neapolitan emotions and the propensity of

the Italian people to seek pleasure:

Among the people, every young girl fifteen years of age has a

lover, and every young man seventeen years of age is in love,

and passions are very strong and very long-lasting. Both of

them think about marriage and wait for it as long as is nec-

essary, that is to say until the man could buy the most im-

portant piece of furniture, a large, square bed. Note that he

does not live like a Trappist monk during the interval. No

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population has given itself over to pleasure to a greater ex-

tent, [nor is another population] more precocious; from the

age of thirteen, a boy is [considered] a man. 67

Here, Taine asserts that Italians routinely become sexually active be-

fore having reached adulthood, while also suggesting that this sexual

precocity is an inherited characteristic, something innate to the Ital-

ian race.

Despite this evidence that the stereotype of the pleasure-seeking

Italian was widespread in French society, Bodinier appears to have

constructed a different narrative in The Marriage Proposal. There is

no intimation that the couple has had sexual intercourse or that

their relationship is based upon physicality; in fact, the unblemished

whiteness of the young woman’s gown likely indicates a profound

purity of character that precludes premarital relations. The small

amount of skin left exposed by the woman’s apparel further rein-

forces this point. If the painting were indeed about succumbing to

pleasure, one would expect a greater amount of flesh to be on dis-

play. Moreover, the stillness of the figures’ poses and the tranquility

of their expressions are incongruous with the uninhibited passion

described in Taine’s journal.

Rather than depicting Italians as purely hedonistic, Bodinier

constructs a narrative about a happy engagement and the prospect

of a successful marriage. Sébastien Allard, a curator in the Depart-

ment of Paintings at the Musée du Louvre, points out that Bodinier

has omitted from view anything that might threaten to destabilize

the union. Conspicuously absent are the young woman’s father, the

young man’s parents, any tangible religious signs, such as a crucifix

or a rosary, and bachelors who could serve as future cicisbei. 68 These

omissions are surely intentional, as Bodinier’s similarly themed The

Marriage Contract in Italy (Figure 7) incorporates three additional

male figures with the authority to decide the terms of the marriage

contract. Their inclusion suggests that the marriage’s success hinges

on the settling of this contract, whereas in The Marriage Proposal

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nothing — not family, faith, nor formalities — stand to impede the

couple’s happiness.

In Allard’s analysis of this painting, he alleges that Bodinier’s nar-

rative affirms Stendhal’s conception of the Italian people. A French

writer who lived in Italy from roughly 1814 to 1821, Stendhal often

portrayed a “happy, sun-soaked Italy” in his novels and other writ-

ings. 69 According to Allard, “Bodinier wants us to believe in the sa-

cred dimension of the Italian people’s aptitude for happiness, much

lauded by Stendhal.” 70 To accomplish this, Bodinier simplifies the

painting’s composition, compelling the viewer to concentrate on the

tender exchange of gestures and looks between the figures. The two

most expressive gestures are the mother’s upward-facing palm and

the young man’s right hand, positioned just below his heart. The

former seems welcoming in nature, as though the mother is inviting

the young man into the family, 71 while the latter suggests the sincer-

ity and depth of the man’s affections.

Prior to the launch of Bodinier’s career, two related ideas con-

cerning the relationship between people and the environment was

beginning to circulate in French society. These ideas strongly in-

fluenced Bodinier’s understanding of “Italianness.” The eighteenth-

century naturalist and proto-anthropologist Georges-Louis Leclerc

asserted in his 1749 Histoire naturelle that “manners and mores…

function through the intermediary of climate and food.” 72 Leclerc

believed that human customs, behaviors, and inclinations could be

explained as a function of the environment, understood to encom-

pass the ecological, social, and political aspects of a region. This idea

was taken up by the Parisian historian Jules Michelet. He conceived

of national alterity as being based on a “common circulation of val-

ues” and impacted by diverse factors such as “climate, geography,

language, mores, and history, as well as diet.” 73 In Michelet’s eyes,

the cultivation of national alterity was both natural and desirable.

Though Michelet did not publish his ideas until after Bodinier had

painted The Marriage Proposal, this paper will use them as represen-

tative of those circulating in French society two decades earlier.

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The second idea is particularly well-known today from the writ-

ings of historian Hippolyte Taine, though it was originally suggested

by Montesquieu. 74 Again, despite the fact that Taine’s works were

not published until well after Bodinier had completed this painting,

they built upon an idea established in the eighteenth century. A rigid

determinist and a strong supporter of the scientific method, Taine

believed it possible to identify a cause for all human behaviors, per-

sonality traits and community traditions. He was highly interested

in mental and behavioral characteristics that were typical of a popu-

lation in a given geographical locale and at a particular moment in

history. 75 He developed a now famous theory centered on three “pri-

mordial factors” — race, milieu and moment, meaning established

“ways of feeling and thinking”; climate, political circumstances, and

social conditions; and “the sum total of all the actions / experiences

previously undergone by humanity and engraved upon the race, at

a given moment of its evolution.” 76 Taine was convinced that these

three factors explained why people from different cultures live the

way they do and why customs that are widely accepted in one cul-

ture do not take root in another.

The Marriage Proposal includes several indications that Bodinier

intended it as a response to the ongoing debate about cultural other-

ness, the first of which is the subject matter of the painting itself. For

Taine, marriage as a social institution was explicable as a combined

product of race, environment, and epoch. By depicting an engaged

couple in a serene setting, Bodinier suggests that the people of Al-

bano value marriage as an arrangement that brings happiness and

security. Significantly, behind the three figures is a pane-less window

offering the beholder a truncated view of a body of water (presum-

ably Lake Albano) and a hilly horizon. Though this vista may serve

to give the scene a site-specific setting and to allow Bodinier to ex-

hibit his talent for landscape painting, it also suggests a relation-

ship between the temperate climate of central and southern Italy

and Italian marital practices. Such a relationship is posited explicitly

in Taine’s travel journal. During his sojourn in Naples, he remarked

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that Italians were infatuated with their marriage prospects due to

their surrounding climate: it was “impossible for people from here

to think about anything else; it’s the dominant idea, suggested by

the climate and the country [itself].” 77 Although infatuation is too

strong a term in the case of The Marriage Proposal, Bodinier may well

suggest that the Italian cultural esteem for the institution of mar-

riage stems in part from the climate and social environment.

The finery worn by the figures, which would have been reserved

for feast days and special occasions, further implies this cultural es-

teem for marriage. 78 Bodinier meticulously renders everything from

the parallel scalloped edges of the women’s dresses to the exagger-

ated crimson bow atop the young woman’s head, making apparent

his interest in local garments. 79 Allard contends that the figures’ fine

clothes are meant to exoticize and ennoble them, an observation

reaffirmed by Henri Loyrette. 80 However, their sumptuous clothing

also refutes the accusations of degeneracy that Napoleon directed at

the Italian people. If Bodinier concurred with the Emperor’s estima-

tion of Italians, one might expect to see figures in tattered cloth-

ing, seated on dilapidated furniture, and set against a backdrop of a

prominent ruin. 81 Instead, the figures wear their Sunday’s best and

are framed by a verdant landscape.

Before concluding this discussion of Bodinier’s narrative about

Italian sexuality and attitudes towards marriage, it is important to

revisit his only other genre scene that specifically treats the subject

of matrimony, the 1831Marriage Contract (Figure 7).

This picture contains several conspicuous similarities in com-

position, costume and décor to its precursor. The mother and the

bride-to-be wear gowns almost identical to those of the correspond-

ing figures in The Marriage Proposal, and their hands are likewise

tightly clasped. Their positions are inverted, however, so that the

young woman, rather than her mother, now occupies the chair of

upholstered velvet. The scene is set in a more elaborate outdoor ter-

race, offering viewers an analogous vista to that of the prior paint-

ing. Here however, the hilly landscape is magnified, and Bodinier

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Figure 7.

Le Contrat de mariage en Italie, by Guillaume Bodinier, 1831, oil on canvas, 1.01 m Height x 1.38 m Width, Musée du Louvre, Paris

has taken greater care to evoke the undulating slopes. The groom’s

facial expression is polite rather than tender, and he holds the hand

of a plainly dressed, prepubescent girl, perhaps his younger sister. Al-

lard briefly compares the two paintings by describing The Marriage

Contract as “a more anecdotal and less vivid interpretation… of a

similar theme.” 82

Nonetheless, there are also significant differences between the

two prenuptial scenes, the most noticeable of which is the varied

physiognomy of the subjects’ faces in The Marriage Contract. In The

Marriage Proposal, the groom possesses a distinctly classical, aqui-

line nose shown to its best advantage in a profile view. The bride’s

face is oriented frontally, highlighting its flawless symmetry, another

characteristic of classical physiognomy. The mother, with her fuller

shape and plumper face, is the least idealized of the three figures, but

her placid expression and smooth skin display vestiges of classicism.

In The Marriage Contract, on the other hand, although many of the

figures are characterized by tanned skin, heavy brows, and dark hair,

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certain figures are far more idealized than others. The three men in

the background appear grizzled and wrinkled, and the mother’s fa-

cial expression is almost a caricature. Only the betrothed couple is

the least bit classical, though they, like the lovers in The Marriage

Proposal, depart from the classical norm due to their black hair.

This suggests that Bodinier has reworked the neoclassical para-

digm to better suit his engaged Italian couples, while also appro-

priating a more grotesque physiognomy for the other peasants. In

a certain sense, these adaptations are surprising: greater fidelity to

Rome’s classical tradition might be expected, given Albano’s geo-

graphical proximity to the city. However, these adjustments reflect

the marked increase in scholarly publications about physiognomy in

the mid-eighteenth century. One of the most influential physiogno-

mists was the Swiss-born Johann Kaspar Lavater, who theorized that

“man’s outwards appearance, whether taken in whole or in parts, is

a manifestation of his inner self.” 83 His research was first published

in German in 1775, but within six years a French edition had been

printed in Paris, and by 1810 a total of fifteen French editions were

in circulation. Many of the French intellectuals who traveled to Italy

around the turn of the century received Lavater’s theories with en-

thusiasm, including de Staël, Sand, and Chateaubriand. As a result,

Bodinier’s generation of artists, particularly members of the David-

ian school, started to take “a greater physiognomical interest in the

faces they depicted.” 84

Bodinier’s attention to facial anatomy and his willingness to de-

viate from classical precedents are significant because both contrib-

ute to his narrative of “Italianness.” One possible interpretation of

the non-idealized figures in The Marriage Contract is that Bodinier

is making a statement about the degradation of the Italian race since

ancient times, echoing Napoleon’s comment to the Milanese elec-

toral colleges some twenty years earlier. At the same time, the more

classicizing physiognomy of the engaged couples suggests that Bodi-

nier believed in the possibility of a regeneration of Italian culture.

He seems to agree with Corinne’s comment to Oswald in Corinne,

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ou l’Italie that Italian character “reveals traces of ancient grandeur:

sparse, scarcely visible traces that in happier times could rise to the

surface once more.” 85

Another evident difference between the two paintings is the

presence of a notary public in The Marriage Contract, identifiable

by the plume in his right hand and the legal document before him

on the table. Bodinier has deliberately constructed the scene so that

the viewer’s eyes are inevitably drawn to this figure: not only is the

notary centrally placed within the picture space, but he is situated

at the tip of an isosceles triangle that he forms with the bride and

groom. In addition, the notary’s dark gray hair and somber cloth-

ing effectively silhouette him against the lush landscape, which is

painted in much lighter tones. To the left of the notary public is a

middle-aged man who could be the bride’s father, while to his right

is a man whose head covering may indicate that he is a member of

the clergy. 86 These compositional devices that Bodinier exploited in

order to focus attention on the notary raise a question: how does

the notary impact Bodinier’s narrative about Italian sexuality and

marital practices?

One possible interpretation of the notary’s role emerges through

a consideration of the cicisbeismo tradition. In The Marriage Proposal,

Bodinier presents viewers with an engaged couple whose coming

marriage bodes much happiness, corresponding to Stendhal’s percep-

tion of Italians. In The Marriage Contract, such happiness seems less

assured; the marriage may even be arranged by the couple’s parents.

Perhaps the groom holds onto his sister’s hand as a way to muster

up courage for a potentially unhappy marriage. Many nineteenth-

century French intellectuals blamed arranged marriages for the ex-

istence of the cicisbeismo tradition. In Louis Simond’s 1828 Voyages

en Italie et en Sicile, he argues that marriages approved for reasons

of “familial and economic interests” were almost always “loveless,”

and consequently, Italian women sought love and pleasure outside

of their marital relationships. 87 Bodinier may have agreed with this

logic, deciding to juxtapose an arranged marriage with a marriage

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for love so that his viewers might judge for themselves the merits of

each Italian social institution.

In analyzing this painting, it is also important to consider the

ways in which the experience of French occupation altered Italian

marital habits and family life. After the Republic of Italy was dis-

solved and reestablished as the Kingdom of Italy in March 1805,

Napoleon passed legislation that required Italians to marry civilly

prior to marrying in a church, in addition to legalizing the practice

of divorce. Both of these changes were “intensely disliked among all

classes,” because they conflicted with the decrees laid out by the six-

teenth-century Ecumenical Council of Trent. 88 This aversion mani-

fested itself in a homily delivered by a parish priest in 1808, in which

he denounced the practice of civil marriage and argued that “it was

only the sacrament that made marriage a contract.” 89 Clearly, Na-

poleon’s policies about civil ceremonies and marriage records were

highly controversial, such that Bodinier could not have been un-

aware of the conflict when painting The Marriage Contract. In this

context, the work may acknowledge Italian resistance to French so-

cial reforms and the resilience of Catholic spirituality in Italy, which

made the peninsula distinctly “other” from France.

Both Bodinier’s 1825 The Marriage Proposal and his 1831 The

Marriage Contract depart from the nineteenth-century French ste-

reotype of the pleasure-seeking Italian. They broach issues ranging

from the happiness and security that Italians derived from marriage

to the social traditions and reforms that threatened the stability of

marriage. Bodinier also responded to contemporary ideas about

the development of cultural values and customs, demonstrating a

commitment to understanding “Italianness” in an era when Italians

themselves were struggling with the same task. Though Bodinier ini-

tially investigated questions of national character through the insti-

tution of marriage, in subsequent years he did so through another

lens: religion. Like many of the other French artists and intellectuals

who visited the peninsula in the early nineteenth century, Bodinier

was curious about Italian spirituality. Over the course of his career,

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he produced at least six paintings broaching this theme. Together,

these works represent an attempt to understand Italian morality and

modes of worship, as practiced by both laypeople and clerics.

Roughly one year after completing The Marriage Proposal, Bodi-

nier executed another painting of the Italian folk, but this time fo-

cused on a solitary figure. In Bodinier’s 1826 A Pilgrim, a fatigued

Christian en route from Santiago de Compostela in northwestern

Spain pauses to rest his tired legs. With his head resting on his hand

and his elbow leaning on a stone block, he looks out wearily at the

viewer, which seems to cost him great effort. The background colors

suggest that it is either twilight or early dawn, but the lack of oth-

er temporal indicators makes this difficult to ascertain. Around the

pilgrim’s neck hangs a large cross of Lorraine, the two-barred cross

that was recognized as a symbol of Joan of Arc. 90 Other signs of the

pilgrim’s devotion include the crucifix propped upon his knee, the

rosary dangling near his left hand, and the prominent shell of St.

James affixed to his cloak.

In terms of the painting’s narrative, the scallop shell is the most

important (and most visually striking) of the four objects, inform-

ing the viewer of the destination of the man’s pilgrimage. According

to The Golden Legend, after Christ’s Resurrection the apostle James

began to preach the Good News first in Samaria, the ancient capital

of Israel, and later in Spain. The disciple’s remains are thought to be

held in Santiago de Compostela and, as a result, pilgrims flocked to

this region in great numbers from the tenth century onwards, until

the city’s celebrity was equal to that of Jerusalem and Rome. Once

the pilgrims had arrived and made an offering at the saint’s shine,

they frequently pocketed a scallop shell or a piece of jet, both abun-

dant in the surrounding area. These mementos functioned as “proof

that the pilgrimage had been accomplished” and they became trea-

sured items “passed from father to son like heirlooms.” This practice

became so common that locals began selling the coveted shells in

shops adjacent to the cathedral. 91 By proudly displaying his shell,

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Bodinier’s aged pilgrim suggests that he successfully reached his des-

tination and is now returning home.

One possible interpretation of A Pilgrim is that Bodinier was

impressed by the pilgrim’s determination and so constructed a narra-

tive about the religious dedication of Italians. To support this theory,

this paper will now review the disparate attitudes toward organized

religion in nineteenth-century France and Italy. Prior to the Revo-

lution, the Roman Catholic Church was a powerful institution in

France, and the parish church was “a primary source of identity for

the villagers.” Church attendance was fairly regular in the country-

side. Beginning in the 1760s, however, major church holidays such

as Easter were observed by fewer people, and vocations to the priest-

hood declined dramatically, particularly between 1760 and 1775. 92

This slow diminution in French religious devotion was closely

related to the availability of Enlightenment texts and the repeated

attacks of the philosophes on the Catholic Church. Not all of the En-

lightenment thinkers were as openly critical of Christianity as Vol-

taire, who decried the Christian faith as “the enemy of progress,” but

many were willing to question fundamental Christian dogma and

to oppose ecclesiastical involvement in secular affairs. This hostility

filtered down through French society, causing a general erosion of

respect for clergymen in the last decades of the eighteenth century.

This decline continued following the declaration of France’s sover-

eignty in 1789, when the Assembly went to great effort to strip the

Church of its political clout. The Church was dispossessed of its

property and all monastic orders were disbanded. Clergymen were

given the option of swearing their allegiance to the Civil Consti-

tution or being discharged from their priestly duties. All of these

measures served to progressively marginalize the Church until 1793,

when the French state officially “severed its ties with the historic

faith” and began to actively persecute Christians. Churches were

forcibly closed, the calendar was reorganized to omit Sundays, and

the Declaration of the Rights of Man was trumpeted as the new

Apostles’ Creed. 93

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Although many of these changes were reversed after the end of

the Reign of Terror and the proclamation of religious tolerance in

1795, irreparable damage had been done to the Catholic Church in

France. Regular worship and Mass attendance had come to a com-

plete halt, and people were slow to resume their former religious

habits. Parish priests, once so central to their communities’ “individ-

ual and collective existence,” were now drastically reduced in num-

ber. Perhaps most significantly, “half a generation of young people”

were deprived of formal religious instruction, making them less like-

ly to establish and maintain a connection with the Catholic Church.

Scholars refer to this steady detachment from the Church as a pro-

cess of “dechristianisation” that began in the mid-eighteenth centu-

ry, but greatly accelerated during the Revolution and its aftermath. 94

The religious situation in contemporary Italy was quite differ-

ent. In the preface to his 1819 drama The Cenci, which recounts a

true story about an Italian family, English poet Percy Bysshe Shel-

ley shrewdly remarked that religion “pervades intensely the whole

frame of [Italian] society.” 95 Many of Bodinier’s contemporaries who

spent time in Italy made note of the manifestations of popular piety

that they encountered. When Chateaubriand was visiting Terracina,

a city southeast of Rome, he was intrigued by “some laborers driv-

ing carts pulled by large oxen, and who carry a small picture of the

Virgin… some pilgrims, some beggars, some black and white peni-

tents.” 96 His comments draw attention to several key aspects of Ital-

ian Catholicism in the nineteenth century, including the prevalence

of Marian cults, the frequency of pilgrimages to national and foreign

holy sites, 97 and the regularity of the sacrament of reconciliation.

A large segment of French (and English) society harbored dis-

dain for Italian religious practices, viewing them as evidence of a

“religious archaism” untouched by “the forces of modernity.” 98

Eighteenth-century writer Oliver Goldsmith was appalled by Ital-

ian Catholics’ constant recourse to confession, feeling that penance

simply gave them license to sin anew. 99 Dedouet d’Auzers, a director

of police during Napoleon’s reign as King of Italy, was convinced

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that Italian Christians had become “deaf to the public servant”

because they only recognized the authority of local clergymen. 100

Moreover, the French had difficulty comprehending the Italian en-

thusiasm for pilgrimages, since in their own society pilgrimages had

waned in popularity and importance. This French condescension

toward Italian Catholicism is exemplified by Napoleon’s legislation,

which sought to chip away at cherished Italian religious customs.

He forbade the use of tickets to keep tally of attendance at Easter

confession, dissolved all non-overseas missions, modified the word-

ing of the Easter passage that blamed the Jews for Christ’s crucifix-

ion, 101 and abolished local saints’ days, among other reforms. The

enforcement of these changes was strongly resented by Italians, and

communities that normally had antagonistic relationships rallied to-

gether in defense of their traditional modes of worship. 102

These tensions between French and Italian Catholicism must

be taken into account when examining Bodinier’s 1826 A Pil-

grim, since any analysis must determine whether Bodinier shared

the scorn of many of his contemporaries for Italian religiosity. Did

he agree with English writer William Hazlitt, who, in discussing

Christian pilgrimages, claimed that “those who signalize their zeal

by such long marches obtain not only absolution for the past, but

extraordinary indulgence for the future… [to commit] any looseness

and mischief”? 103 Little in Bodinier’s painting supports such an in-

terpretation; rather, Bodinier depicts Italian religiosity as a positive

attribute.

This is apparent in the monumental stature of Bodinier’s pil-

grim. The man’s knees protrude outwards into the viewer’s space,

creating both physical proximity and intimacy between himself

and the beholder. Additionally, although Bodinier treats his subject

as a distinct figure type, bedecking him with easily identifiable at-

tributes, he does not wholly objectify his model, since the pilgrim

makes direct eye contact with the viewer. This eye contact implies

that the pilgrim has consented to share his story with a wider audi-

ence. Finally, as discussed previously, Bodinier has included the shell

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of Saint James as one of the pilgrim’s attributes, showing that the

pilgrim has succeeded, and is on his return journey. In choosing to

depict a successful pilgrim, Bodinier suggests a respectful apprecia-

tion of Italian Catholicism.

Bodinier’s conception of Italian spirituality was likely impacted

by the German scholar Johann Gottfried von Herder. Unlike En-

lightenment thinkers such as Voltaire and Hume, who alleged that

mankind was more or less the same “in all times and places,” Herd-

er believed in the “irreducible diversity of human societies.” In his

philosophical text On the Change of Taste, first published in 1766,

Herder argued that people from disparate cultures should be expect-

ed to vary immensely in their “concepts, beliefs, (perceptual and

affective) sensations, and so forth.” 104 Most importantly, he claimed

that such variation was both healthy and desirable, and encouraged

nations to immerse themselves in their indigenous customs. 105 This

attitude may have offset the more negative stereotypes about Italian

spirituality to which Bodinier was likely exposed, enabling him to

judge popular modes of worship with a less critical eye.

Moreover, Herder is also credited with coining the term Zeitgeist,

which translates roughly as “the spirit of the age.” 106 In its original

usage, the neologism was meant to denote the collective influence

of the most widely-read writers and most well-known artists of a

particular period and culture. As the expression was taken up by

scholars, however, it was more broadly applied and came to signify

the dominant “trends, fashions, attitudes and feelings in a society.” 107

This latter understanding of the term is especially pertinent, since

Bodinier’s painting is a reflection of his interpretation of the Zeit-

geist of nineteenth-century Italy. Herder thus influenced Bodinier’s

positive depiction of the prevailing religious sentiment in Italy and

sought to uncover its bearing upon “Italianness.”

Bodinier’s 1826 A Pilgrim presents viewers with a narrative

about a dutiful Italian Christian who has successfully completed a

pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, despite the physically tax-

ing nature of the journey. This painting is one of six that Bodinier

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devoted to the overarching theme of Italian spirituality, making it

clear that Bodinier was not fleetingly interested in the religious prac-

tices of the peninsula. Bodinier’s attitude towards Italian Catholi-

cism was shaped by scholars such as Herder, who appreciated the

uniqueness of national traditions to a greater extent than many of

his contemporaries.

This chapter brought to the fore several French stereotypes about

Italian sexuality and religiosity, including that of the libertine Italian

wife and the unenlightened Italian Catholic. Through a close analy-

sis of three of Bodinier’s paintings, the chapter demonstrated several

ways in which Bodinier overturned these common preconceptions.

The subsequent chapter will now juxtapose two of Bodinier’s cross-

over paintings, exploring Bodinier’s conception of Italian connect-

edness to the land and the implications of this conception for his

larger narrative of “Italianness.”

Chapter Three: Italy as the “Pays du Naturel”

Four years prior to undertaking A Pilgrim, Guillaume Bodinier

arrived at Capri, an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea on the south side

of the Gulf of Naples. This was in fact his second visit to the is-

land, having already spent two months in the vicinity during the

summer of 1824. 108 Capri was an extremely popular destination

amongst the French artists newly arrived in Italy, due to its pleasant

weather and moderate temperatures. 109 As François-Édouard Bertin

remarked, “Winter never makes itself felt here, and the heat of sum-

mer is tempered by continual zephyrs.” 110 French artists also flocked

to Capri because they considered the province of Naples the “most

otherworldly and exotic” region in Italy. 111 Bodinier and his contem-

poraries were interested in the aspects of Italian life that decidedly

differed from their own experiences, and the Gulf of Naples was

perceived as a locus of exoticism.

During his stay, Guillaume Bodinier painted one of his cross-

over paintings, hereafter referred to as “genre landscapes” due to

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their similarity to both genre and landscape paintings. Young Bathers

on a Rock at Capri (Figure 3) of 1826 depicts two boys in a cove, one

standing and wearing the garb of a Neapolitan fisherman, the oth-

er seated with his discarded clothes behind him, apparently having

stopped to catch their breath after a swim or preparing to dive into

the bay. Dominant in the surrounding landscape are the boulders

of varying sizes, which protrude through the surface of the water

and give definition to the shoreline. Approximately two-thirds of the

composition is allotted to the sky.

Nine years later, Bodinier revisited the theme of water in Young

Boy on the Beach at Terracina of 1835 (Figure 4). Like the playmates

in the previous picture, the child here is stationary, though it is less

obvious what he may have been doing prior to the moment depict-

ed. Dressed in oversized overalls and an open-necked shirt, the boy

stands unassumingly, with his feet planted close together and his

hands folded behind his back. Patrick Le Nouëne maintains that the

child may have agreed to pose for Bodinier in exchange for a small

remuneration. 112 This practice was not uncommon for artists who

had been trained in the atelier of a neoclassical painter, habituated as

they were to painting from live models. 113

Both Young Bathers and Young Boy on the Beach were execut-

ed in situ, demonstrating the probable influence of scientism upon

Bodinier. Many French intellectuals extolled the virtues of empiri-

cal knowledge and were convinced that humanity could be studied

in much the same way as the subjects of scientific experiments. The

philosopher Auguste Comte endorsed “the extension of the scientif-

ic method to the study of societies,” while Ernest Renan proposed in

L’Avenir de la Science “a study of man… based on the experimental

and descriptive method of all the sciences.” 114 For painters, this was

an invitation to observe firsthand the customs and social behaviors

of other peoples, and to record those observations on canvas. What

developed was “the quasi-scientific practice of [painting] en plein

air,” in which paintings were begun and completed outdoors, in-

stead of being touched up in the studio. 115

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Bodinier’s two genre landscapes also testify to his interest in how

Italian youths, raised in a rural community, interacted with their

native environment, an interest that arguably derives from Claude

Lorraine’s implicit association between the Italian people and the

countryside. Stylistically, Bodinier’s two paintings manifest a pro-

nounced departure from the tradition of Claude. These differences

of style and technique aside, however, Claude’s countless studies of

Italian peasants in the Campagna surely influenced Bodinier’s deci-

sion to explore “Italianness” outside of the Eternal City. One ques-

tion this raises is why Claude and his artistic successors, including

Bodinier, perceived the countryside as more “Italian” than the me-

tropolis of Rome. Why would Rome, long trumpeted as the pin-

nacle of civilization, be dismissed in the as peripheral to the question

of “Italianness”?

One possibility emerges from the discourse of Romantic writ-

ers such as Stendhal, de Staël, and Sand, who perceived Italy as the

“pays du naturel,” or the country of innocence and naturalness. 116

Like other French intellectuals of the period, these authors were

disenchanted with the rigid social stratification, “conformism, and

sexism” of French society, all of which they considered highly artifi-

cial. The Italian countryside was regarded as a “paradisiacal” escape

from this codified way of living, a place in which “social distinctions

rarely carry much weight” and locals live in an almost naïve com-

munion with the land. 117 Given the broad circulation of Romantic

literature, Bodinier and his colleagues likely traveled to the Italian

Campagna in search of communities where “the social classes mingle

freely… without snobbishness or prejudice” and natives maintain

a give-and-take, mutually beneficial relationship with their natural

surroundings. 118

A secondary reason for this emphasis on the Italian countryside

comes from the nineteenth-century idea that alterity and environ-

ment are interrelated. Montesquieu believed that antithetical char-

acter traits could be ascribed to Northern and Southern Europeans

as a function of the different weather patterns to which they were

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accustomed. He attributed self-confidence, courage, forgiveness,

and “fewer suspicions, political intrigues, and tricks” to Northern-

ers, while ascribing vengefulness, dishonesty, and laziness to South-

erners. 119 Although certainly not all French intellectuals and artists

adopted this sort of dichotomous thinking, the idea that climate

could impact temperament outlived Montesquieu and was especial-

ly influential upon Bodinier’s generation.

Taine’s published writings also predicate a correlation between

climate and character traits. He believed that man’s social and cli-

matic environment provided him with “the occasions, joyous and

tragic, in terms of which his personality is shaped and his sense of

values formed.” 120 Like Montesquieu, Taine tends to associate Ital-

ians with more negative character attributes, including immaturity,

guile, lack of honor, and lack of restraint. 121 As justification, Taine

cites the dirt, odors, and decay that he encountered while voyaging

throughout Italy. Even official guidebooks published by Baedeker

and Murray hinted at a relationship between the Italian climate and

the social behavior of the villagers. In the ninth edition of Baedeker’s

Italie centrale: manuel du voyageur, the city of Siena is portrayed in

the following way: “This is one of the most agreeable cities in Tus-

cany… Its climate is wholesome and not too hot, due to its elevated

location; the manners and language of its inhabitants are agreeable

and ingratiating.” 122 Significantly, the character of the Sienese peo-

ple is mentioned immediately after a description of Siena’s weather,

without even a period to separate the ideas.

As a result of this ongoing discourse about climate, Bodinier’s

two genre landscapes may be read as attempts to discern Italian

personality traits, implied by the children’s activities, or more ac-

curately, by their inactivity. In both Young Bathers and Young Boy

on the Beach, the subjects are immobile and an atmosphere of calm

pervades the scene. Corinne, one of de Staël’s protagonists, explains

this stillness in the following way: “Italy’s mild weather fosters a spe-

cial kind of indolence, in which… the self gladly loses its sense of

time.” 123 De Staël would likely point out that Bodinier could have

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painted Italian youths splashing water at each other or frolicking in

the waves, but instead chose to depict three boys who are not physi-

cally exerting themselves in any way. For de Staël and other Roman-

tic writers, Bodinier’s paintings could represent the way in which

Italy’s climate affects its denizens, inducing them to forego vigorous

exercise. 124

Though Bodinier refuted stereotypes of Italian sexuality and

marriage, it is challenging to make the case that he countered the

familiar stereotype of the indolent Italian. This difficulty stems in

part from the few publications of Bodinier’s work. At least four of

his paintings belonging to the Musée des Beaux-arts in Angers bear

titles or are accompanied by brief descriptions that indicate activity

of some sort: Bodinier’s 1823 Lumberjackin the Environs of Tivoli

depicts a man felling a tree; his 1836 Women Carrying Pitchers and

Listening to an Old Man portrays several peasants en route to a well

to collect water; his Young Hunter Brandishing a Hare (undated)

shows a spear-carrying hunter who has just snared a rabbit; and his

Laborer (undated) represents a farmer wielding some sort of agricul-

tural tool. 125 None of these works have been published, however, so

it is difficult to say anything definitive about them. In any event, the

majority of Bodinier’s genre landscapes resemble Young Bathers and

Young Boy on the Beach in that their subjects are sedentary.

Nonetheless, Bodinier may not have wholeheartedly agreed

with Montesquieu and Taine. He may have intended to emphasize

the comfort felt by Italians in their natural environment, and to

highlight their slower pace of life. The travel reflections of Ameri-

can writer Henry James during a trip to the Alban Hills in the late

nineteenth century are here germane. While visiting a Capuchin

convent, James encountered “a cowled brother standing with folded

hands profiled against the sky” and found him to be “in admirable

harmony with the scene.” 126 Akin to the Italian monk in James’ de-

scription, the barefoot boy in Bodinier’s Young Boy on the Beach has

his hands politely folded and stands silhouetted against the sea and

sky. More importantly, he too fits seamlessly into the beach setting,

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with the blue of his overalls nearly merging into the blue of the wa-

ter. 127 Like the French Romantic writers of his period, Bodinier sug-

gests that Italians are more in touch with nature than are the French.

Contemporary accounts of the slower pace in Italy support the

theory that Bodinier makes such a statement in these paintings.

Many French artists and intellectuals, accustomed to the hurried

comings and goings of Paris, were astonished by what they perceived

to be a dramatically slower lifestyle in the Campagna. Renan com-

pares the attitudes of the French and the Italians in his 1849 travel

journal:

In Italy, a charming taste for life. Relaxed rhythm of life.

Us, no; we must act. We are always hurried, them, no. They

enjoy this slow, monotonous course [of life]… We only like

action in life; them, they like life [itself]. 128

Intriguingly, this juxtaposition emerges because Renan is able to re-

flect upon his own culture after having been immersed in another.

He seems fascinated with the idea of taking life in measured steps,

instead of rushing impatiently onward to the next moment in life.

Later in his journal, Renan expands upon this idea after a visit to

Siena: “The Italian naturally limits his horizon, and makes narrow

the domain of life, in order to concentrate more profoundly on [life

itself].” 129 Here, Renan suggests that Italians have sufficient perspec-

tive on life to disregard more trivial aspects and focus on what they

deem truly important.

In both of Bodinier’s genre landscapes, the subjects have halt-

ed their previous activities, and a sense of quiet calm envelops the

scenes. The nude boy in Young Bathers gazes out at the steep shore-

line as though pausing to appreciate the natural beauty around him,

while the shoeless youth in Young Boy on the Beach stands patient-

ly at attention, untroubled by Bodinier’s request to paint him. For

these reasons, Bodinier likely constructed a narrative about the lei-

surely pace of Italian life, so unfamiliar to the French, while also

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hinting at the close relationship between Italians and their natural

environment. Although Bodinier was surely cognizant of the stereo-

type about the lazy Italian, his decision to depict children, as op-

posed to adults, may indicate that this stereotype did not factor into

his narrative. 130

This chapter examined two crossover paintings in which Bodi-

nier brings to the fore the interactions of his Italian subjects with

their physical milieu. Understanding the nature of these interactions

proved central to Bodinier’s conception of “Italianness.” The follow-

ing chapter will explore Bodinier’s curiosity about a different sort

of environment — the Italian home — and situate his ideas about

domestic life within his overarching narrative of the Italian alterity.

Chapter Four: La Maison and La Maisonnée in Italy

Few nineteenth-century French travelers to Italy failed to remark

upon the manifold examples of palatial, administrative, and religious

architecture, both ancient and modern, that they came across during

their excursions, particularly in Italy’s cities and town centers. In an

1803 letter to the French essayist Joseph Joubert, Chateaubriand de-

scribes the Piedmontese metropolis of Turin as “a new, clean, regular

city [that is] bedecked with palaces” and compared its architecture to

“some of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Paris.” 131 Sixty years

later, Taine made a similar remark in his journal about the profu-

sion of royal residences in Rome, estimating that the Eternal City is

home to between one hundred and one hundred and fifty palaces.

Like Chateaubriand, Taine judges the imperial buildings against the

Parisian architectural structures to which he is accustomed, claiming

that “One finds less material grandeur, less space, and fewer rough

stones [in Rome] than in the Place de la Concorde and the Arch

of Triumph; but this is more original and more interesting.” 132 The

comments of both Chateaubriand and Taine attest to the admira-

tion of nineteenth-century French intellectuals and artists for Italian

monumental architecture.

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In Bodinier’s artistic repertoire, however, these subjects figure

infrequently. Out of the two hundred and thirteen paintings attrib-

uted to Bodinier by the Base Joconde, only four depict close-range

views of monumental architecture. 133 His 1824 View of the Coliseum

in Rome features the infamous Flavian amphitheater; his View of

the Castle of Saumur (undated) represents a fortified castle that is

surrounded by a defensive moat; and both his Landscape of Ruins

(undated) and his Ancient Ruins: Crossroads in Pompeii (undated)

portray the remains of Pompeii. 134 Another painting of Bodinier’s

absent from the Base Joconde, but published in the 2003 catalogue

for the previously cited Maestà di Roma exhibition, is entitled View

of the Castle of Ostie and evokes the “vestiges of the powerful medi-

eval fortress constructed at the end of the fifteenth century for the

future Pope Julius II.” 135 Apart from these five exceptions, Bodinier

appears to have been minimally interested in Italian civic or church

architecture.

Nonetheless, this does not mean that Bodinier eschewed Italian

architecture altogether. On the contrary, he took great interest in

the private dwellings that he came across during his travels. In Bodi-

nier’s 1825 drawing titled View of Subiaco (Figure 6), he offers the

beholder a view of two houses built perpendicularly to one another

and sharing a wall. 136 They are constructed so as to take advantage

of the natural lay of the land; the front entrance of the house on the

right, for example, is gained by mounting a staircase that doubles

as an archway, under which one may pass, which also enables the

homeowners to have a basement floor. 137 Round-topped tiles for

their roofing characterize both homes, and the dwelling nearest the

viewer appears to have a chimney. The façade of the more distant

house includes two windows, one of which is paned, and behind this

house, a fence demarcates the family’s property from that of their

neighbors. A total of four figures are integrated into the scene.

Bodinier draws even closer to the Italian home in a drawing

sketched a year prior to View of Subiaco, entitled Terrace of a House

at Anacapri (Figure 5). The latter is distinguished from the former in

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two conspicuous ways, the first being the absence of any residents,

and the second being the vantage point from which Bodinier ex-

ecuted the drawing. Here, it appears that Bodinier was invited inside

a local’s dwelling, for he presents a privileged interior view of an Ital-

ian residence. The terrace is characterized by three columns, two of

which hold up some sort of vegetation that is interwoven with the

beams above, and Bodinier’s scrawl in the lower right hand corner

informs the viewer that a washhouse is located between the columns

and the well. Next to the well, it is possible to discern a two-handled

vase, and in the left side of the picture space appears a cone-shaped

potted plant. Bodinier may have been seated on a bench like the one

built into the half-wall when sketching this scene.

Both View of Subiaco and Terrace of a House at Anacapri dem-

onstrate an open-minded curiosity about the Italian maison and

maisonnée, 138 a curiosity that is all the more remarkable in light of

the dismissive or condescending attitudes of certain of his contem-

poraries. Many French intellectuals associated Italian residential ar-

chitecture and domestic life in the countryside with filth, poverty,

cramped quarters, and disease. After a stroll through a neighbor-

hood in Civitavecchia, Taine remarked with disgust:

From two sides appear black hovels where filthy children

[and] little girls with their hair in disarray… try to sew their

rags back together. Never did a sponge pass over the win-

dows, nor a broom over the stairs; they are imbued with hu-

man filth… Several windows seem to be crumbling. 139

By drawing attention to the unkempt children in tattered garments

in the middle of his description of the decrepit house, Taine sug-

gests a connection between the home environment in which Italian

peasants are raised and the peasants themselves. Taine also confesses

his reluctance to enter a home characterized by such an “acrid, un-

pleasant odor.” 140 This apprehension sets him apart from Bodinier,

who appears to have more willingly mingled with Italian peasants

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in their humble abodes. Even official guidebooks could not refrain

from patronizing remarks. Under the subheading “Climat de Rome”

in Baedeker’s Italie centrale, readers are reassured that local accom-

modations possess “all the modern conveniences that foreigners have

introduced in Italy, above all stoves and carpets.” 141 The unsubtle

suggestion is that Italy owes its modern amenities to France and its

other European neighbors. As these selected examples make plain,

the dominant nineteenth-century French discourse about Italian

homes centered on their unattractiveness, austerity, and griminess. 142

Neither View of Subiaco nor Terrace of a House seem consistent

with this discourse. Though certainly modest, the dwellings that

Bodinier depicted appear clean, well kept, and full of life, suggesting

a different narrative of “Italianness.” This paper addresses Bodinier’s

keen interest in modest dwellings and in “studying local housing

or the organization of a street,” and considers how this impacts his

concept of Italian alterity. 143 It may be that Bodinier agreed with

Renan that “the truth is in the people,” and as a result, true un-

derstanding of another culture requires the outsider to intimately

observe the way in which the “other” lives on a daily basis — how

he or she interacts with community members, relates to his or her

spouse, and raises his or her children. 144 The Italian home, as the

nucleus of family interactions and the site of neighborly exchanges,

was an ideal place to begin this investigation. Sébastian Allard lends

support to this idea, maintaining that Bodinier perceived the Italian

Campagna as “a humbler and apparently more authentic reality.” 145

In Bodinier’s eyes, the home of the Italian peasant signified a place

where ordinary Italians lived their lives in an “authentic” manner, far

removed from the experience of Italy’s landed elite.

Bodinier may also have been influenced by Michelet’s belief

that the members of a nation are characterized by “a capacity for

communication, and an innate desire for community.” 146 In View

of Subiaco, the woman standing in the far doorframe appears to

be in the midst of a dialogue with the two figures on the archway,

while the woman below the arch has paused to listen. Based on the

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respective positioning of the four figures, one can plausibly infer that

the three with their backs to the viewer belong to one family unit,

while the woman farthest from the viewer is a member of a different

household. The couple on the archway seems to be in the process

of arriving or leaving and this fact draws attention to the close-knit

relationships between villagers in which Bodinier was interested. In

the words of Le Nouëne, “by capturing the posture of several figures

in local costume in front of their door, he shows his interest in the

connection that establishes itself between the inhabitants of this vil-

lage as a function of the particular layout of their housing.” 147

As previously mentioned, another scholar whose ideas about

“otherness” probably influenced Bodinier’s sketches of Italian peas-

ant dwellings, in addition to Michelet, is Herder. Like other nine-

teenth-century anthropologists, Herder stressed the importance of

“studying people’s minds through their literature, visual art, etc.”

in order to “enhance our sympathies for peoples… at all social

levels.” 148 This seems to be precisely the task that Bodinier set for

himself, but instead of grounding his studies in Italian literary and

artistic oeuvres, he opted to observe Italian peasants in their home

environment in order to understand the mindset of Italians living in

traditional, agrarian communities. This approach is reminiscent of

Herder’s notion of Einfühlung, which is usually translated as “feeling

one’s way in.” Herder advocated “an arduous process of historical-

philosophical inquiry” as the most effective way to “bridge radical

difference” between cultures. 149 The two decades that Bodinier spent

on the Italian peninsula attempting to define “Italianness” constitute

just this sort of inquiry, and his drawings of houses in the Campagna

can be considered one manifestation of this process. What is intrigu-

ing is that Bodinier not only “felt his way in” to Italian culture intel-

lectually, but also physically. As mentioned before, Bodinier needed

to have been inside the home at Anacapri in order to capture that

particular view of the terrace.

It is also worth noting that all of Bodinier’s close-range depic-

tions of Italian homes were sketched instead of painted. 150 Although

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sometimes, “after having sketched a landscape fragment… he en-

larges and completes it with some figures in his atelier,” this was

not the case for View of Subiaco, Terrace of a House, or Bodinier’s

other five drawings of Italian houses that are published in Paysages

d’Italie. 151 Instead, like the two paintings discussed in the previous

chapter, each of these sketches was created wholly in situ, and in

many instances Bodinier not only recorded the year, but also the day

of the month on which they were produced. This offers a distinct

advantage in terms of reconstructing Bodinier’s narrative of “Itali-

anness” because it allows us to generate a timeline of the different

domestic interactions that he observed and judged to be sufficient-

ly interesting to record. On July 31, 1824, Bodinier encountered a

mother and child ambling alongside a garden wall; on August 11,

1824, he witnessed a woman hanging laundry over the ledge of a

bifurcated staircase and several locals canoeing next to a two-story

home; and on July 17, 1825, Bodinier watched as next-door neigh-

bors conversed. 152 These snippets of peasant life in the Campagna

offer insights into Bodinier’s empirical method and testify to his ef-

forts to understand the Italian family unit.

Bodinier’s interest in familial relationships is also rooted in a

larger discourse about the multifarious factors that impact the de-

velopment of a culture or civilization. In Taine’s Histoire de la litté-

rature anglaise, he outlines a so-called law of proportional influence,

which claims that “religion, art, philosophy, the state, the family, the

industries” exercise varying degrees of influence upon a culture, de-

pending upon its “elementary moral state.” 153 As has been previously

suggested, Taine was fiercely committed to determinism, and he be-

lieved that human thoughts and actions are “dictated by complete-

ly identifiable and extraordinarily stable causes.” 154 For this reason,

Taine looked to social structures such as the family in order to ex-

plain how one culture could value a given behavior or practice, while

another culture could abhor it. In addition, the family unit falls un-

der the umbrella of milieu in Taine’s tripartite theory of culture. As

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a result, Bodinier’s curiosity about Italian families and households

should be treated as a response to this ongoing dialogue.

Most nineteenth-century French artists and intellectuals were

prone to take greater interest in urban civic and religious buildings

than in rural residential architecture. They associated the “impov-

erished dwellings” of Italian peasants with “foul alleys,” rank odors,

and inadequate living space. 155 Bodinier distinguished himself from

the dominant trend by treating the Italian home as a site for in-

vestigating familial relationships and community organization in

the Campagna. He repeatedly sketched the exteriors, and occasion-

ally the interiors, of Italian homes, betraying the likely influence

of Herder’s concept of Einfühlung. Both View of Subiaco and Ter-

race of a House at Anacapri attest to Bodinier’s curiosity about peas-

ant life, especially as it manifested itself in the home environment.

Conclusion

This study aimed to situate Guillaume Bodinier within an inter-

disciplinary discourse about “otherness” and “Italianness” that pre-

occupied a large number of French intellectuals and artists in the

early nineteenth century. Bodinier arrived in the Italian peninsula in

the early 1820s, at a time when nationalism was still in its embry-

onic stages and Italians were grappling with the extensive political

and social changes that had been implemented by Napoleon. Some

Frenchmen were doubtful that a truly national Italian identity was

even feasible: in his travel journal, Taine opined that Italians were

“too ignorant, too attached to the soil, too stuck in their hatreds and

in the interests of their village” to abandon their regional loyalties. 156

Bodinier and his French contemporaries were drawn to Italy for

a variety of reasons, not the least of which was Rome’s status as “the

second capital of the Napoleonic empire” until Napoleon’s abdica-

tion in 1814. 157 Many French artists felt an “irresistible need” to

visit the pastoral regions of Italy that so inspired Claude Lorrain and

Nicolas Poussin, and each helped articulate, whether consciously or

unconsciously, an idea of Italy. 158

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This idea was by no means stable, and it centered on a host of

stereotypes that germinated in the eighteenth century and were then

perpetuated by successive generations of French writers. One of the

most oft repeated of these clichés was that Italian culture had de-

clined from its former glory, which was associated with both antiq-

uity and the Renaissance. Chateaubriand “saw Italy as nothing more

than a country symbolizing the decadence of social institutions” and

Renan remarked upon the “degradation” of Italians after encoun-

tering a beggar with an ulcerous skin condition in Corneto. 159 Two

French stereotypes that went hand in hand in the nineteenth century

were those of the passionate and the irrational Italian. Romantic au-

thors such as de Staël, Stendhal, and Sand wrote novels in which the

Italian characters “risk their lives, their fortunes, their reputations”

in order to “be with the ones they love,” a quintessential example

being Corinne and Oswald in Corinne, ou l’Italie. 160 This emotional-

ism was attributed in part to the delayed infiltration of Enlighten-

ment ideas into Italian society, and it was also for this reason that the

French positioned Italy outside of modernity.

This pre-modernity was additionally thought to be manifested

in the Catholic rites and modes of worship characteristic of Italy.

The Napoleonic regime displayed “contempt for Italian religious life

in all its myriad forms,” and this scorn was imparted to the succeed-

ing generation of academics and artists. 161 In the decades leading up

to the Revolution, Christianity was slowly but steadily marginalized

in French society, and by the mid-1790s the Church lacked “any

real idea of how to make its presence felt.” 162 It is thus unsurprising

that French travelers in the early nineteenth century were suspicious

and somewhat disdainful of Italian religious fervor. The French also

nurtured stereotypes about Italians as indolent beings. Under the

subheading of “La Société” in his travel journals, Taine claims that

“[personal] initiative and action are harmful and poorly viewed” in

Italy, while “laziness is exalted.” 163 Taine explained this Italian dis-

inclination to be active as a function of the benevolent climate in

the southern half of the peninsula. At the same time, however, the

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French admired the Italians for their ability to live in apparent har-

mony with their natural surroundings.

Bodinier’s contemporaries were much less admiring of Italian

residential architecture, particularly in the countryside. They per-

ceived Italian homes as unclean, disease-ridden, and wanting for

modern comforts. When Chateaubriand stopped in Portici en route

to Mount Vesuvius, he accepted an invitation to have lunch with

a local hermit, and in his travel notes he recounted the experience

in the following way: “He made me enter his cell; he laid out the

place setting, and served me a loaf of bread, some apples and some

eggs.” 164 The important word in this description is “cell,” which

evokes a small, cramped room that is “summarily furnished.” 165

Other French historians and philosophers were even more direct in

their negative appraisals of Italian homes.

Although Bodinier was certainly aware of these stereotypes of

“Italianness,” he appears to have been very selective about which to

adopt and which to discount. In The Marriage Contract, Bodinier

depicts nine Albanese peasants who run the physiognomic gamut

from moderately idealized to distinctly non-classical. Although the

latter might suggest a degeneration of the Italian race since antiquity,

the facial features of the engaged couple could imply just the oppo-

site, namely that nineteenth-century Italians still bear visible traces

of their Roman ancestors. Another important aspect of Bodinier’s

narrative in both The Marriage Contract and The Marriage Proposal

is the theme of Italian matrimony, which is tangentially related to

Italian sexuality. Unlike many French historians, philosophers, and

artists of the period, Bodinier seems persuaded that Italians have a

profound respect for marriage, both as a sacrament and a social in-

stitution, and that it affords them much happiness. He contrasts a

marriage for love with a marriage for familial and economic conve-

nience in order to underscore the way in which each situation affects

the betrothed.

Bodinier was also less critical of Italian religious practices and

moral codes than many of his contemporaries. In A Pilgrim, he

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commemorates an Italian peasant’s successful pilgrimage to Santiago

de Compostela in northwestern Spain, while in genre scenes such

as Forgiveness Granted for the Sin of Frailty, he “promotes the image

of a rural Italian lifestyle preserving traditional Christian values.” 166

Paintings such as these present Italian Christianity in a more sympa-

thetic manner than was standard for Bodinier’s generation.

One cliché about “Italianness” that Bodinier does seem to have

absorbed is that of the peasant living tranquilly in his natural envi-

ronment. In both Young Bathers on a Rock at Capri and Young Boy

on the Beach at Terracina, he depicts barefoot boys who blend eas-

ily into their aquatic settings and seem to be serenely enjoying the

warmth of the sun. Neither the boys nor the water is agitated in ei-

ther painting, which may be an allusion to the “profound well-being

that forms the basis of life for the Italian people.” 167 While it might

seem reasonable to claim that these two scenes are also meant to af-

firm the stereotype of the languid Italian given to inactivity, such

assertions are rather tenuous.

The final aspect of Bodinier’s narrative of Italianness that this pa-

per investigated was his perception of Italian houses and households.

Unlike other nineteenth-century French travelers, who were primar-

ily interested in the “characteristic buildings, such as the papal pal-

aces, the dome of Saint Thomas of Villanova by Bernini, or even

the Villa Barberini,” Bodinier shifted his attention to the humble

dwellings he came across during his peregrinations in the Roman

countryside. 168 His series of drawings featuring mundane domestic

moments and exteriors of homes demonstrate his interest in the Ital-

ian family unit and village relationships, and give no intimation of

the illness, filth, or penury mentioned by his contemporaries.

As this study of Bodinier’s artistic narrative about Italian alterity

draws to a close, I would like to suggest several avenues for future

research. The scope of my project was necessarily restricted by my

limited access to primary sources about the painter’s life and career.

During my research, I discovered in a footnote of the Maestà di Roma

exhibition catalogue that photocopies of Bodinier’s correspondence

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with his siblings, uncles, and cousins are in the possession of Guil-

laume Regnard’s widow and children. 169 I also suspect that further

unpublished documentation is to be found in the archives of the

Musées d’Angers, to whom Bodinier’s widow donated the contents

of his studio in 1872. The publication of these materials could offer

crucial insights into how Bodinier’s conception of Italians evolved

between 1822, when he first arrived in Rome in the company of

Guérin, and 1846, when he departed from the peninsula for the last

time.

In addition, over the past few months the Base Joconde has up-

loaded over seventy additional images of paintings by Bodinier that

were not available online when I first undertook my study. These

images include several remarkable portraits of rural Italians, and in

each case the costumes of the figures are meticulously rendered. One

question that I touched upon briefly, but that deserves to be treated

in greater depth, is how Bodinier’s depictions of local dress contrib-

ute to his understanding of “Italianness.”

Throughout this study, I have striven to contextualize the artis-

tic production of Bodinier within a nineteenth-century French dia-

logue about the meaning(s) of “Italianness,” and I hope that future

scholars will continue my efforts to give due recognition to a now

forgotten artist.

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Endnotes

  • 1 Alexander Grab, “From the French Revolution to Napoleon,” in Italy in the Nineteenth Century: 1796-1900, ed. by John A. Davis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 27.

  • 2 Alterity is a philosophical and artistic term for “otherness.”

  • 3 Célestin Port, Dictionnaire Historique, Géographique et Biographique de Maine-et-Loire (Paris: J.-B. DuMoulin and Angers: Lachèse Dolbeau, 1878), 382.

  • 4 “Guillaume Bodinier (Angers, 1795-1872),” Musées D’Angers, 01 Nov. 2010, <http:// musees.angers.fr/les-musees/index.html>.

  • 5 Henry Jouin, Musée d’Angers: peintures, sculptures, cartons, miniatures, gouaches et dessins:

collection Bodinier, collection Lenepveu, legs Robin (Angers: Imprimerie Lachèse et Dol- beau, 1881), 62.

  • 6 Ibid.

  • 7 Viviane Huchard et al., The Finest Drawings from the Museums of Angers (London: Heim Gallery Ltd, 1977), 10.

  • 8 Patrick Le Nouëne, “Guillaume Bodinier” catalogue entry, in Maestà di Roma: Da Napoleone all’unità d’Italia: D’Ingres à Degas, les artistes français à Rome, ed. by Olivier

Bonfait (Académie de France in Rome and the Dahesh Museum of Art in New York, Mondadori Electa S.p.A., 2003), 384.

  • 9 Huchard, 10.

    • 10 Patrick Le Nouëne, Guillaume Bodinier: paysages d’Italie 1823-1836 (Angers: Musée des Beaux-arts, 2005), 5.

    • 11 Ibid.

    • 12 Jouin, 62 and Huchard, 10.

    • 13 Le Nouëne, Paysages d’Italie, 7.

    • 14 Ibid. Quoted in Armand Parrot, Catalogue des tableaux, dessins et gravures de la collection de feu de M. Guillaume Bodinier, (Angers: E. Barassé, 1873), non-paginated. Original French: “Sous le ciel magique d’Italie.”

    • 15 Jouin, 62.

    • 16 Ibid.

    • 17 Le Nouëne, Paysages d’Italie, 7.

    • 18 Jouin, 63.

    • 19 Port, 383. Original French: “Avec galerie, véranda, fleurs et vases à l’antique” so that “il pouvait rêver à l’aise d’autres horizons perdus.”

    • 20 Le Nouëne, “Guillaume Bodinier” catalogue entry, 384.

    • 21 Parrot, non-paginated. According to my count, 12 paintings, 70 drawings, and 163 engravings and lithographs could be definitively classified as depicting scenes of Italy, thanks to their site-specific titles.

    • 22 Huchard, 1 and Le Nouëne, Paysages d’Italie, 5.

    • 23 Desmond Gregory, Napoleon’s Italy (Madison: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp., 2001), 182.

    • 24 Grab, 38.

    • 25 Gregory, 181.

    • 26 Olivier Bonfait and Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, “L’École de Rome,” in Maestà di Roma, 51.

    • 27 Vincent Pomarède, “Un paysage enchanté: Le paysage à l’Académie de France à Rome,” in Maestà di Roma, 283. Pomarède does not provide an explanation for the artists’ ten- dency to travel in small groups, but it was probably a function of both practical reasons and a desire for companionship.

    • 28 Gregory, 17-18.

    • 29 Grab, 28.

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  • 30 Ibid., 26.

  • 31 Ibid., 27-31.

  • 32 Gregory, 38 and Grab, 34-35.

  • 33 Ibid. and Gregory, 181.

  • 34 Grab, 48.

  • 35 Ibid., 38-39.

  • 36 Gregory, 179-180.

  • 37 The flag of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy was characterized by the same tricolor schema as the modern Italian flag, but instead of three vertical bands, a green rectangle containing the eagle from Napoleon’s coat of arms was superimposed upon a white par- allelogram, which in turn was superimposed upon a red rectangle.

  • 38 Grab, 39.

  • 39 Gregory, 176-177 and 182-183.

  • 40 Hippolyte Taine, Voyage en Italie (Paris: Hachette, 1884), 328. Original French: “Sou- haitent-ils vivement devenir Italiens? Oui et non.”

  • 41 During Napoleon’s rule, however, regional identities continued to predominate over national identity and tensions between northern and southern Italy flared up regularly.

  • 42 Gregory, 43.

  • 43 Ada Giusti, Images of Italy in nineteenth century France (Stanford University, Disserta- tions & Theses: ProQuest, 1990), 57.

  • 44 Bonfait and Normand-Romain, 51. Original French: “Conçue comme une école Les ... pensionnaires devaient habiter sur place, prendre leurs repas ensembles à des heures fixes, obtenir l’autorisation du directeur pour toute absence.”

  • 45 Pomarède, “Un Paysage enchanté,” 280. Original French: “Une sorte de démarche initiatique.”

  • 46 Ibid.

  • 47 Michallon entered the atelier of Henry-François Mulard, a former student of David, in 1808; see Blandine Lesage, “Achille-Etna Michallon” catalog entry, in Maestà di Roma,
    520.

  • 48 Pomarède, “Un Paysage enchanté,” 279. Original French: “Formés dans l’esprit de Poussin.”

  • 49 Ibid. Original French: “Recréé de manière plus ou moins imaginaire.”

  • 50 Ibid. Original French: “Émotions ressenties devant le spectacle de la nature.”

  • 51 Henri Loyrette et al, Nineteenth Century French Art: From Romanticism to Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Art Nouveau (Paris: Flammarion, 2006), 77.

  • 52 Pomarède, “Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot” catalog entry, 420. Original French: “Ro- chers, arbres et fabriques qui animaient un paysage.”

  • 53 François-René Chateaubriand, Voyage en Italie, ed. by Jean-Marie Gautier (Genève: Librairie Droz S.A., 1968), 126. Original French: “Cette terre…est demeurée antique comme les ruines qui la couvrent.” The letter was addressed to Louis-Marcelin de Fon- tanes, the editor of Mercure de France.

  • 54 Louis-Antoine Prat, “Théodore Chassériau: un séjour italien (1840-1841),” in Maestà di Roma, 120. Original French: “Ce n’est pas à Rome que nous pouvons voir la vie ac- tuelle… J’ai fait des études de la campagne, si célèbre pour sa beauté… C’est une chose unique au monde.”

  • 55 Anne Bush, “The Roman Guidebook as a Cartographic Space,” in Regarding Romantic Rome, ed. by Richard Wrigley (Germany: Peter Lang AG, International Academic Pub- lishers, 2007), 184 and 189.

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  • 56 Karl Baedeker, Italie centrale: manuel du voyageur, 9th ed. (Leipzig: 1890), 7. Original French: “La ville offre peu d’intérêt; on pourra consacrer le temps disponible à une pro- menade sur le port.”

  • 57 Giusti, 2-3. Giusti points out that certain travel journals were constructed as deliberate deceptions because the author wanted to hide the fact that any time had elapsed be- tween his voyage and the creation of his journal. She cites as the quintessential example the Lettres familiales sur l’Italie by Charles de Brosses, which were written fifteen years after the fact; see Giusti, 48.

  • 58 Ibid., 50.

  • 59 Base Joconde, Catalogue des collections des musées de France, Site du ministère de la culture et de la communication, 20 Sept 2010, http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/ mistral/Joconde_fr>.

  • 60 Sébastien Allard, “Demande en mariage: costumes d’Albano près de Rome,” in Maestà di Roma, 385.

  • 61 Giusti, 100.

  • 62 Ibid., 52. Ada Giusti describes de Brosses’ travel journal as “by far the most widely read of the eighteenth-century travel journals written about Italy,” which suggests that his narratives about Italian courtesans would have reached a broad audience; see Giusti, 50.

  • 63 Robert Casillo, The Empire of Stereotypes: Germaine de Staël and the Idea of Italy, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 57.

  • 64 Some scholars suggest that the cicisbei were stipulated in Italian marriage contracts; see Ibid., 116.

  • 65 Ibid., 108.

  • 66 The French sculptor Charles Dupaty was one such scholar. In his Lettres sur l’Italie, he accuses Italian women of abandoning “one superficial romance” for another, “treating each as an ‘amusement, an intrigue or caprice,’” but without ever experiencing a deeper, longer-lasting love; see Ibid., 114.

  • 67 Taine, 94. Original French: “Dans le peuple, toute jeune fille de quinze ans a un amou- reux; tout jeune homme de dix-sept ans est amoureux, et les passions sont très-fortes et très-durables. Tous deux pensent au mariage, et l’attendent aussi longtemps qu’il faut, c’est-à-dire jusqu’à ce que l’amoureux ait pu acheter la pièce principale du mobilier, un lit immense et carré. Notez qu’il ne vit pas en trappiste pendant l’intervalle. Nulle population n’est plus adonnée au plaisir, plus précoce; des treize ans, un enfant est un homme.”

  • 68 Allard, 385.

  • 69 Ibid. and Irena Grudzinska Gross, Hippolyte Taine’s Polemical Vision of Italy (New York: ProQuest Information and Learning Company, Columbia University, 2002), 205.

  • 70 Allard, 385. Original French: “Bodinier veut nous faire croire à la dimension sacrée de l’aptitude au bonheur du peuple italien, tant louée par Stendhal.”

  • 71 It helps to imagine the mother with a downward-facing palm instead, which would leave the viewer in greater doubt as to whether she approved of the couple’s union or not.

  • 72 Tzvetan Todorov, On Human Diversity: Nationalism, Racism, and Exoticism in French Thought, trans. by Catherine Porter (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 103.

  • 73 Vivian Kogan, The “I” of History: Self-Fashioning and National Consciousness in Jules Mi- chelet (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 247 and 267. These ideas were articulated in Michelet’s History of the Nineteenth Century.

  • 74 The French Enlightenment thinker Montesquieu elaborated the basic principles of race, environment and epoch in his 1748 The Spirit of the Laws; see Thomas H. Goetz, Taine and the Fine Arts (New York: State University College, 1973), 28. Montesquieu also

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developed a “theory of climates” that heavily influenced Germaine de Staël, becoming “a mainstay in her perception of Italians” and causing her to conclude that “Italian man- ners result from the region’s climate”; see Giusti, 131.

  • 75 D.G. Charlton, Positivist Thought in France during the Second Empire, 1852-1870 (Ox- ford: Oxford University Press, 1959), 127.

  • 76 Paul Nève, La Philosophie de Taine (Louvain: Institut supérieur de Philosophie, 1908), 92-97. Original French: “Façons de sentir et penser

La

somme des actions antérieure-

... ment subies par la matière humaine et imprimées dans la race, à un moment donné de

son évolution.”

  • 77 Taine, 95. Original French: It was “Impossible aux gens d’ici de penser à autre chose; c’est l’idée dominante, elle est suggérée par le climat et le pays.”

  • 78 Auguste Racinet, Le Costume historique (Los Angeles: Taschen, 2006), 494.

  • 79 This interest is also evident in the title of the painting; see Allard, 385.

  • 80 Ibid. and Loyrette, 52.

  • 81 This description is slightly hyperbolic, but it makes clear that Bodinier was not con- structing a narrative about a degenerate culture in The Marriage Proposal.

  • 82 Allard, 385. Original French: “Une interprétation plus anecdotique, moins intense… d’un thème similaire.”

  • 83 Graeme Tytler, Physiognomy in the European Novel: Faces and Fortunes, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 68.

  • 84 Ibid., 74, 82-83, 99-100, and106. Bodinier was not David’s student, but he received the same neoclassical training as David’s pupils.

  • 85 Casillo, 63.

  • 86 Interview with Professor Pierpaolo Polzonetti, Department of Program of Liberal Stud- ies, University of Notre Dame, 22 Feb 2011.

  • 87 Casillo, 118.

  • 88 Michael Broers, The Politics of Religion in Napoleonic Italy: The War against God, 1801- 1814 (New York: Routledge, 2002), 48.

  • 89 Ibid., 50.

  • 90 Edith Benkov, “Joan of Arc c. 1412-1431,” Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender, ed. by Fedwa Malti-Douglas, Vol. 3 (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007), 813. Joan of Arc was born in the modern-day province of Lorraine.

  • 91 Walter Starkie, The Road to Santiago: Pilgrims of St. James (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company Inc., 1957), 14, 61 and 70-71.

  • 92 Nigel Aston, Religion and Revolution in France, 1780-1804 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 38, 52 and 25.

  • 93 Ibid.,83-93, 129, 133-134, 165-166, 260 and 263-265.

  • 94 Ibid., 38, 259, 276.

  • 95 Casillo, 126.

  • 96 Chateaubriand, 101. Original French: “Des laboureurs conduisant des charrettes qui traînent de grands bœufs, et qui portent une petite image de la Vierge…des pèlerins, des mendiants, des pénitents blancs ou noirs.”

  • 97 One Italian municipality that gained popularity as a pilgrimage destination in the six- teenth century was Cicagna in the Apennine Mountains. Local Jesuit priests began to encourage the recitation of the Rosary of the Madonna and, as s result, a previously “neglected statue of the Virgin began granting miraculous favors”; see Broers, 55.

  • 98 Ibid., 28.

  • 99 Casillo, 125.

    • 100 Broers, 29.

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  • 101 Many regions in Italy were fervently anti-Semitic in the early nineteenth century; see Ibid., 33.

  • 102 Ibid., 38-40, 53 and 80.

  • 103 Quoted in Casillo, 126.

  • 104 Michael Forster, “Johann Gottfried von Herder,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by Edward N. Zalta, <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/herder/>.

  • 105 Kogan, 264. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Italians took this advice to heart when some of their deeply entrenched religious traditions, especially their Marian cults, came under attack, culminating in a sequence of turn-of-the-century rebellions. As Mi- chael Broers put it, “The revolts of 1799 are the most spectacular, politicized expressions of the importance of Mary in the hearts of the Italian masses”; see Broers, 57-58.

  • 106 Herder introduced the word into the German language in 1769 in order to translate the title of C.A. Adolph’s Genius Specula; see A.C. Grayling, Ideas that Matter: The Concepts that Shape the 21st Century (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 387.

  • 107 Ibid.

  • 108 Le Nouëne, Paysages d’Italie, 23.

  • 109 Stephen Bann, “Le peuple, de l’héroïque au pittoresque,” in Maestà di Roma, 248 and Pomarède, “Corot” catalog entry, 420.

  • 110 Pomarède, “Un paysage enchanté,” 283. Original French: “Les hivers ne s’y font jamais ressentir, et les chaleurs de l’été y sont tempérés par de continuels zéphyrs.”

  • 111 Ibid. Original French: “Plus dépaysante et exotique.”

  • 112 Le Nouëne, “Guillaume Bodinier” catalog entry, 391.