Discordant and ambiguous messages in official representations of empire: Versailles 1845 and Crystal Palace 1851

Gill, H. 2004. Discordant and ambiguous messages in official representations of empire: Versailles 1845 and Crystal Palace 1851. International Journal of Francophone Studies. 7 (3), pp. 151-167.

TitleDiscordant and ambiguous messages in official representations of empire: Versailles 1845 and Crystal Palace 1851
AuthorsGill, H.
Abstract

This article compares issues of imperial representation and display in mid-nineteenth century Paris and London. Analysing the selection of images and artefacts displayed in Versailles in 1845, and at the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, it focuses on the monumental Vernet painting The Capture of the Smala of Abd-El-Kader at Versailles, and the Indian Court at the Great Exhibition which became a symbol of the submission of India. The French display of paintings of the conquest of Algeria and the British exhibition of artefacts and pageantry have overwhelmingly been read as a cry of imperial triumphalism. Whilst not refuting that interpretation, this article focuses on signs of ambivalence and/or dissent discernible at the time regarding the wisdom, morality, durability and ultimate value of foreign domination, and argues that the implicit discourses contained in both events are not as monolithic as first seems. Cette étude met en parallèle les représentations et les modalités d’exposition en France et en Grande Bretagne au milieu du XIXème siècle. Elle se penche d’une part sur le tableau monumental d’Horace Vernet La Prise de la Smala d’Abd-el- Kader exposé pour la première fois en 1845 et symbole de la conquête de l’Algérie; et d’autre part sur la Grande Exposition de Londres (1851) comme marque de la soumission de l’Inde. Le mode spectaculaire de ces deux manifestations, longtemps considérées comme purs cris de triomphe des deux empires, est pris en compte et analysé dans cette étude. Cependant, au-delà d’un constat d’évidence du triomphalisme de l’époque, l’analyse se concentrera sur les signes d’équivoque, et de mise en doute du projet colonial présents dans le matériau luimême, et dans certains commentaires contemporains. Le texte conclut sur l’identification d’une multiplicité de discours plutôt qu’à une lecture linéaire du message d’hégémonie impériale.

JournalInternational Journal of Francophone Studies
Journal citation7 (3), pp. 151-167
ISSN1368-2679
YearNov 2004
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1386/ijfs.7.3.151/0
Publication dates
PublishedNov 2004

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