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Boutet de Monvel’s Jeanne d’Arc: The Role of the Bibliophile in the Development of a French Medieval Aesthetic

Willa Z. Silverman, Malvin E. and Lea P. Bank Professor of French and Jewish Studies at Penn State University and Head of the Department of French and Francophone Studies, Penn State University. An atmosphere of intense bibliophilic activity came to define French culture at the turn of the 20th century—promoted, in part, by the activities of upper-bourgeois collectors who considered the printed medium a crucial part of popular conceptions of aesthetics. Silverman considers the bibliophile’s attraction to medieval themes and iconography during this era. As amateurs, publishers, authors, designers, and directors of bibliophile societies, reviews, and small presses, these “new bibliophiles” often worked closely with both authors and artists to create unique volumes bearing the aesthetic influence of symbolism, art nouveau, Japonisme, and the medieval revival. This lecture was given on December 12, 2018, as part of an expert panel on French medievalism at the turn of the 20th century, examining the particular cases of Boutet de Monvel’s Jeanne d’Arc and book arts, along with the greater phenomenon of medievalism during the Belle Époque.