A Parisian Boudoir in London: The South Kensington Museum Sérilly Room

A Parisian Boudoir in London: The South Kensington Museum Sérilly Room Abstract In 1869, the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum, purchased the panelling, painted ceiling, windows and chimneypiece from an eighteenth-century Parisian room created in 1778 for the Marquise de Sérilly. This boudoir, as it was then called, was exhibited furnished at least from December 1869 and can thus be considered as one of the first period rooms ever to be installed in a museum. The first part of this article examines what made the Sérilly room distinct in comparison to other similar types of display and to the other objects exhibited in the galleries. It demonstrates that the period room can be considered a ‘museum-made’ object and underlines the specificity of the experience it offered to nineteenth-century visitors. The second part focuses on the significations of this singular object within the context of a Victorian institution with pedagogical ambitions. It shows how the transformation of this former domestic interior into a period room impacted its original status and meanings in a way that is revealing the museum’s moralizing ambitions. In so doing, it argues that the Sérilly room offered the visitors a unique opportunity for self-definition by inviting them to construct themselves as morally superior subjects. In 1869, the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum, purchased the panelling, painted ceiling, windows and chimneypiece from an eighteenth-century Parisian room that had been created in 1778 for Anne-Marie-Louise-Jeanne Thomas de Dommangeville, Marquise de Sérilly (1762–99) [1]. Built to adjoin the outside wall of the Sérilly townhouse located in the Marais district in Paris, the small room—ten by fourteen feet—was seemingly accessible only through the garden [2].1 This layout, combined with the room’s tiny dimensions, certainly contributed to its designation as a French or Parisian boudoir in the nineteenth century, although it might as well have served as a cabinet or a writing room. At the moment of its acquisition by the museum from the French art dealer Paul Récappé2 and over the ensuing years, it was believed that the Marquise had fitted this room up ‘with the assistance of Queen Marie-Antoinette, to whom she had been a favourite maid of honour, and to have been completed during a temporary absence of her husband as a pleasant surprise for him on his return’.3 This far-fetched explanation, which evoked impulsiveness and fancy on the part of Madame de Sérilly and a glamorous pedigree for the room itself, further enhanced the aura of excess and luxury already conveyed by the idea of a French eighteenth-century boudoir and the lavishness of the room’s décor. Fig 1. View largeDownload slide Jean-Simeon Rousseau de la Rottière (designer), Panelled Room, 1778, carved, painted and gilded pine, 487 × 426 × 320 cm. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Fig 1. View largeDownload slide Jean-Simeon Rousseau de la Rottière (designer), Panelled Room, 1778, carved, painted and gilded pine, 487 × 426 × 320 cm. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Fig 2. View largeDownload slide Architectural plan of the Hotel Sérilly, 1850. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Fig 2. View largeDownload slide Architectural plan of the Hotel Sérilly, 1850. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Thanks to its well-preserved condition, this so-called boudoir might have appeared unchanged upon its entry into the South Kensington Museum. Nevertheless, its purpose and status were considerably altered as it was now meant to be shown to the nineteenth-century British public rather than used by a limited number of eighteenth-century French aristocrats. Furthermore, although it was acquired empty, the room was furnished with Sèvres porcelain vases and some Louis XVI furniture from at least December 1869.4 Accordingly, this space can be considered as one of the first period rooms ever to be installed in a museum.5 A period room can be defined as the combination of architectural components, pieces of furniture, as well as decorative objects organized to mirror—and sometimes to recreate—an interior, very often domestic, of the past. The number of period rooms exhibited in European institutions increased significantly in the late 1880s, primarily in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.6 The very few earlier museum examples that have been identified so far include ethnographical ‘vignettes’ comparable to wax museums displays shown by Artur Azelius at the Nordiska Museet (Stockholm) in 1873, a panelled room from the Zurich Alter Seidenhof acquired by the Zurich Kunstgewerbemuseum the same year, as well as a series of rooms made of seventeenth-century architectural fragments assembled by the Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers for the Historische Tentoonstelling van Amsterdam Museum (the Netherlands) in 1876.7 Accordingly, the exhibition of an eighteenth-century room comprising most of its original architectural components and furnished with period objects remained an isolated occurrence at the end of the 1860s, especially in England. While the history of the Sérilly room has been documented to the extent possible and the iconography and authorship of its décor thoroughly examined,8 no attention has been paid so far to the implications of its status as a new type of exhibit within the South Kensington Museum. What was the specificity of the period room in comparison to the other objects exhibited in the galleries? What were its significations within the context of a Victorian museum with pedagogical ambitions and dedicated to the collecting of decorative arts and design? To answer these two questions, I will first examine how, as a newcomer to the museum world, the period room was distinct from both the illusionistic exhibits shown in International Exhibitions and Fairs during the nineteenth century and the architectural fragments already on display in the galleries of the South Kensington Museum. This part of the analysis will demonstrate how the period room can be considered a ‘museum-made object’, while underlining the singularity of the experience it offered to nineteenth-century visitors. Second, I will envision the meanings of this room in relation to the conditions of its presentation within this museum which aimed at being ‘an impressive schoolroom for every one’9 and the intellectual context of the time. In addition to expanding our understanding of this early example of a museum period room, this section will shed new light on its contribution to the construction of the visitors’ identity in the mid-nineteenth century. In so doing, this article brings a historical perspective to the ongoing debates on period rooms that are of interest to both scholars, who are trying to better understand their complexity and numerous functions, and museums, who are refurbishing their period rooms or making them more critically engaging thanks to the display of site-specific artworks made by contemporary artists.10 For the sake of this study, whether the Sérilly room used to be a boudoir or not before its entry into the South Kensington Museum is irrelevant. This applies equally to the fact that no evidence exists to confirm that Madame de Sérilly had been a lady-of-honour to the Queen, nor that the latter contributed in any way to the fitting-out of this room, although both Madame de Sérilly and her first husband Antoine Jean-François Mégret de Sérilly had been friends with Madame Elisabeth of France, Louis XVI’s sister.11 Quite the contrary, building on these generally accepted assumptions will assist in demonstrating how the museumification of this domestic interior and its transformation into a period room impacted its meanings. A new museum-made object Throughout the nineteenth century, various types of contextualizing settings were created, notably as part of European and North American International Exhibitions and Fairs. The panoramas, already in use during the eighteenth century to provide a 360° view of a landscape, and the first dioramas, invented by Daguerre and Bouton in 1822, are cases in point. Through the skilful combination of painted perspectivist backgrounds, real objects and light effects, these apparatuses were used to convey a sense of a remote period or a distant geographical location.12 In so doing, they offered a unique immersive experience with an indisputably illusionistic character that mesmerized their viewers. In a similar vein, ethnographic displays were erected to theatrically stage members of colonized societies performing activities and rituals purportedly exemplary of their way of life to the delight of the crowd.13 These elaborate and appealing tridimensional environments, freighted with colonialist and imperialist agendas, could take the scale of mock villages in which the ‘Other’ was safely displayed and contained. As explained by Annie E. Coombes, by offering the opportunity to travel around the empire without departing from the site of the exhibition, ‘the villages successfully fostered a feeling of geographical proximity, while the sense of “spectacle” was calculated to preserve the cultural divide’.14 Comparable arrangements were also used to promote an idealized version of a country’s national past. Kitchens, bedrooms and other settings evoking traditional dwellings served as backgrounds to display stereotyped versions of rural folk culture that aimed at shoring up patriotism. Such illusionistic settings staging life groups were closely related to the museum period room, especially those evoking a domestic environment. Conceived as integrated installations in which the idea of a comprehensive whole predominated, they both built on reality effects to catch the attention of the visitors and offer them a unique possibility to encounter a foreign world—either temporally, geographically or both—that was presented as the ‘real thing’. However, regardless of these common features, the museum period room was distinct in a number of respects. First, the Sérilly room was shown without live performers or mannequins. While this situation has not always been prevalent, as in the case of period rooms included in ethnographic museums where costumed guides were present,15 it has since become the norm in most museums collecting artworks.16 This museographic choice on the part of the South Kensington Museum might be interpreted as a means to temper the sensationalism of life groups, thus making the period room more suitable for aesthetic education purposes. In her discussion on the rise of habitat dioramas in museums (the period room counterparts in the field of natural history), Karen Wonders has explained that, in the 1870s, most research-oriented institutions with scientific ambitions did not consider ‘dramatic taxidermic group as appropriate pedagogic display’.17 Rather, ‘they conceived of the proper display of scientific collections as systematic, uniform rows available primarily for scholarly examination’.18 This approach can be paralleled to the classification of objects based on material, a museographic strategy inherited from Gottfried Semper’s theories. Semper’s ideas, which were developed partly while he was at the South Kensington Museum, were adopted by numerous museums of decorative arts from the 1870s, prior to the development of period rooms.19 In the case of the Sérilly room, the absence of performers or mannequins suggests that the history of lifestyle commonly portrayed by life groups gave way to a focus on the aesthetic qualities of the objects, an approach that already prevailed in the surrounding galleries. Although aesthetic concerns were never completely disconnected from a certain type of lifestyle during the Victorian era, this strategy was consistent with the museum’s will to ‘illustrate the history of various manufactures,—some for extreme skill of manufacture or workmanship’20 and, in so doing, to instill what were then considered as the ‘scientific’ basis of design on good principles.21 Indeed, cited as a ‘perfect specimen of a room decorated in the Louis XVI style’ in Myra’s Journal of Dress and Fashion,22 the Sérilly room certainly offered a very fine example of French savoir-faire in interior design thanks to its highly detailed wood carving and painting whose colours, according to an author in The Art Amateur, were ‘being contrasted with a taste and skill that very few nineteenth-century artists could surpass’.23 Furthermore, in this compromise between an appealing display and the scientific organization of the collections, the lack of human presence can also be interpreted as a way to leave more room to the imagination of visitors who can picture themselves inside the room and even enter it as it was the case here. As will later be discussed, this last point will prove crucial in establishing the specificity of the Sérilly room in comparison to other objects on display as well as its specific purpose in the galleries. Second, one of the most relevant aspects that made the museum period room distinct from the contextualizing settings used outside the museum seems to have been the importance given to its so-called authenticity. The kitchens, bedrooms, houses and mock villages created for International Exhibitions and Fairs could combine objects from various historical and geographical origins, and the use of pasteboard backdrops as well as custom-made props was not unusual. This was the case of a peasant room from Hindeloopen (the Netherlands) shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1878: the ceiling and walls were made of cardboard, the tiles were in trompe-l’oeil and pieces of furniture came from various locations, an arrangement that does not appear to have been the subject of any criticism.24 Quite the contrary, within the museum, special attention was paid to the genuineness and historical provenance of the architectural fragments, furniture and various objects that formed the room. In the case of the Sérilly room, this difference was underlined in the press where it was noted that, ‘[u]nlike most of the specimen “boudoirs” and “courts” furnished for exhibition purposes, this is genuine in almost every detail’.25 Despite this concern for authenticity—a very context-specific notion for that matter26—part of the Sérilly room’s aura was built on commonly held belief rather than evidence, as can be noticed in the room’s much publicized, yet unfounded, connection to Marie-Antoinette.27 Along similar lines, the painted neoclassical décor of the room’s panelling was misattributed to the rococo painters François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard; the lunette paintings to Charles-Joseph Natoire (who had died in Italy one year before the boudoir was constructed); and the mantelpiece to Claude Michel, known as Clodion. Only the name of Pierre Gouthière, who supplied the chimneypiece gilt bronze mounts, was accurate. In actual fact, the panelling was designed by Jean-Simeon Rousseau de la Rottière and his older brother Jules-Hugues, who were known for their work on Marie-Antoinette’s apartments at Versailles (1772) and for her Boudoir Turc at Fontainebleau (1777). Philippe-Laurent Roland sculpted the mantelpiece, and the four lunettes representing Pomona, Neptune, Vulcan and Juno, as well as the ceiling’s circular panel representing Jupiter, were painted by Jean-Jacques Lagrenée the Younger.28 Nevertheless, the epistemological shift epitomized by the attention paid to authorship and (illustrious) provenance in the room’s descriptions provided by the South Kensington Museum and in the press is coherent with an ambition for rigour and scientific accuracy commonly shared by museums that were then defining their institutional identity.29 Furthermore, this attitude is reminiscent of the importance given to connoisseurship in the field of art during this period.30 Accordingly, these (albeit wrong) attributions certainly contributed to confer intellectual veneer and credibility to an apparatus intimately connected with popular culture, thus legitimizing its presence in the galleries of a museum with educational and scientific ambitions. In addition to being distinct from the contextualizing settings found in International Exhibitions and Fairs, the museum period room also differed from the other objects on display in the galleries. As an institution dedicated to the collecting of decorative arts the South Kensington Museum exhibited architectural fragments and panelling salvaged from English houses. For instance, in 1870, one could find in the South Court ‘some graceful columns from Fife House, a fireplace and doorway from an old house in Carey Street recently demolished, [and] some paneling from the Bishop’s Palace in Exeter’.31 These ‘interesting bits of wood-carving’,32 as they were described in the press, were fragmental and displayed either on their own or as backdrops for furniture.33 On the contrary, the Sérilly room was exhibited as a complete four-wall space and it was organized as a logically furnished ensemble instead of being used as a mere backdrop. The latter aspect was key in forging the museum period room’s singularity as it contributed to actualize its referent. The period room’s referent is generally an idealized image of a clearly delineated domestic space (such as a bedroom, a kitchen, a study, etc.) and its materialization renders the display more easily legible to visitors in comparison to the mass of objects often piled up in the galleries. While the room’s name can be of some assistance in completing this task—its designation as a ‘French Boudoir’ and a ‘Parisian Boudoir’ were helpful in identifying the Sérilly room as such34—a period room’s referent will take shape first through its content and organization.35 The pieces of furniture and other objects shown need not only to be appropriate to the room; their arrangement must ensure its inner coherence by evoking a plausible, if not always historically accurate and in most cases stereotyped, referent. In other words, far from being limited to its mere constituents, the period room takes shape in its syntactic order, hence the importance of the consistent use of furniture within it. As depicted in an engraving published in The Illustrated London News in November 1871 [3], the Sérilly room was furnished with four chairs, a square table, an oval writing table, a harp by Georges Cousineau who was maker of stringed instruments appointed to Marie-Antoinette and a pair of miniature busts of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette placed on the mantelpiece. The content was not original to the room. Some pieces might have been chosen specifically to reinforce the supposed connection between the room and the French Queen, whereas others did not exactly match the furnishing of an eighteenth-century boudoir. For instance, the set of four identical chairs would probably have been replaced by a sofa or an ottoman, a choice whose implications will be addressed in the second part of this article. Nevertheless, the coordination of each piece as apparently dating from the same period and logically laid out to simulate an inhabited interior—instead of being lined up on a pedestal or enshrined in conservation glasses—was crucial to the perception and experience of this display as a boudoir by visitors. The combination of the room’s architectural structure, content and configuration allowed the space to be apprehended as a coherent ensemble in which all parts were tightly bound together to form a single entity. Fig 3. View largeDownload slide ‘Marie Antoinette’s Boudoir, South Kensington Museum’, from The Illustrated London News, 25 November 1871, vol. LIX, no. 1680, p. 496. Courtesy of Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library, Montreal. Fig 3. View largeDownload slide ‘Marie Antoinette’s Boudoir, South Kensington Museum’, from The Illustrated London News, 25 November 1871, vol. LIX, no. 1680, p. 496. Courtesy of Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library, Montreal. In that respect, unlike the other items collected, preserved and displayed in a museum, period rooms do not exist ‘on their own’ prior to their acquisition. Far from being the mere transposition of a former domestic interior into the galleries, they come into being through the combination of various artefacts chosen and put together by the institution. This making process presupposes potentially extensive material and conceptual interventions on the museum’s part, the denial of which is crucial to the very performance of period room as cohesive ensembles. This means that the fitting of the components with each other must be invisible to the visitors’ eyes, fading away to the benefit of the whole. Consequently, and considering the degree of involvement of the institution in the creation of period rooms, not only do they rank among the most complex strategies used to exhibit material culture, I argue that they can be considered as museum-made objects in themselves. This status, which can arguably be assigned to any museum period rooms, reminds us that the institution is not neutral and always impacts the signification of the objects on display. The quality of the Sérilly room as an object within the museum space was corroborated through the language adopted in the press where it was precisely designated as ‘one of the objects that commonly attracts the curiosity of visitors’.36 Moreover, because of its small dimensions, it was likened to a ‘box’, and, thanks to its ‘exquisite’ decoration, it was described as a specific type of box: a ‘jewel-casket’.37 On the one hand, the association between the Sérilly room and a box reinforced its status as an autonomous entity, that is, as a clearly delimitated whole that can be moved around without compromising its material integrity, just like any other ‘autonomous’ object in the museum galleries. On the other hand, the reference to a jewel-casket pointed to the preciousness of the boudoir, a parallel which can be regarded as an acceptance of its legitimacy within an institution dedicated to the preservation of treasured objects accorded the status of artworks. By virtue of this process of objectification, the presence of this form of exhibition closely related to the spectacular and highly popular life groups shown in International Exhibitions and Fairs was further legitimized within the walls of the museum. As a tridimensional museum-made entity, this period room could be apprehended in a way that challenged the limits traditionally imposed by an object’s surface. Instead of staring at a painting’s flat plan and instead of circling around a sculpture, visitors had the opportunity to get inside the Sérilly room, as can be seen in the print published in The Illustrated London News in which a man and a woman are shown standing side by side in a corner of the boudoir [3]. Once inside this object, the visitors’ movements were probably limited and it is unlikely that they were allowed to touch or use the room’s components.38 Nevertheless, they were invited to engage in an immersive experience prone to nurture a greater sense of intimacy between the subject and the object because it reversed the visitors’ conventional relationship towards the latter by literally positioning them ‘outside in’. Just like the couple depicted in the print, visitors had, at least for the duration of their visit, the unique opportunity of being surrounded by the object, almost becoming part of it. The relationship hence generated between the visitors and the period room was at once unique and paradoxical. On the one hand, as they penetrated the object, visitors were also placed on display. Somewhat aestheticized, even objectified to a certain extent as they were framed by the room, visitors became part of the show and participated in a sort of performance. On the other hand, as such they also disrupted the illusion of being transported to another time and place in the eyes of their fellow visitors who were confronted to the presence of people dressed in nineteenth-century London fashions within a French eighteenth-century environment. While it is relatively easy to notice that the experience of the Sérilly room contrasted with the ways in which one physically related to the other objects displayed in a museum, the significations of this period room and of its very experience are less obvious. To better understand the implications of this embodied form of interaction between the visitors and a museumified version of the domestic interior, I will now critically examine the meanings this French eighteenth-century boudoir might have had in the South Kensington Museum in the 1870s. From boudoir to period room: libertinage, travel and exoticism The Sérilly room was acquired at a time when eighteenth-century France was being reassessed in England, a phenomenon likely promoted by the Goncourt brothers’ practices of collecting and publications. French decoration trends of that period were discussed in journal articles and books such as Mrs Haweis’ The Art of Decoration,39 and British industries followed suit, as in the case of the ceramic manufacturer Minton & Co who did not hesitate to produce pieces inspired by porcelains made by the French royal manufactory of Sèvres prior to the Revolution. In the same vein, Queen Marie-Antoinette became a figure of great interest, a fact that certainly reinforced the royal myth surrounding the creation of the Sérilly room and heightened its allure. Several hagiographical biographies of the Queen as a tragic heroine were published during the second half of the nineteenth century40 and, as noted by Terry Castle, she even became ‘the object of a widespread and often curiously eroticized group fixation’ among British women sympathetic to the Ancien Régime.41 While the first boudoirs were probably spaces dedicated to meditation, rest and devotion, their uses as well as their significations fluctuated greatly over time. In the wealthiest French domestic interiors of the last decades of the eighteenth century, the boudoir came to be considered a private feminine space associated with leisure, voluptuousness and non-procreative sexual practices. In this room, where intimacy replaced sociability, lust and luxury were often indissociable and mutually enhancing.42 In this sense, the boudoir was not only a space to seduce, it was also considered a seductive space in itself that had the power to captivate anyone entering it, even the most prudish of users.43 This libertine space also alluded to both travel and exoticism. Michel Delon has pointed out that it was aboard a frigate named La Boudeuse that Louis Antoine de Bougainville reached Tahiti in 1768.44 Derived from the French verb bouder (to sulk), the boat’s name foregrounded the feelings of remoteness and solitude that can be experienced at sea, while also evoking one of the functions that gave the boudoir its name; a room in which to sulk. Upon their arrival, the sailors discovered what appeared to them to be a life of nudity and sexual freedom, and, in the popular imagination, the island became associated with a ‘primitive’ boudoir.45 In the meantime, boudoirs adorned with lacquered work, ‘chinoiseries’ and other ‘orientalizing’ décor were erected. This was the case, for instance, with the Fontainebleau ‘Turkish-style’ boudoir made by the Rousseau de la Rottière brothers that Louis XVI offered to Marie-Antoinette in 1777. Despite its name, as a period room the Sérilly room was not exactly a boudoir anymore. Through its objectification, it had lost its former function as a private and alluring retreat to become a space accessible to a large number of people. In this process, the room’s power as an agent of seduction was replaced by a power of evocation, a feature that still characterizes period rooms today. This power stems from the room’s cohesion and immersive form and is reflected notably in its capacity to transport—at least through imagination—the visitors to another time and place thus initiating what could be described as another form of voyage.46 Following this line of thought, I suggest that while the creation of the period room radically transformed the functions and status of the boudoir from which it originates, the references to libertinage, travel and exoticism remained, albeit in altered form. The ways in which these notions were impacted and displaced, as well as the new meanings they conveyed, as I will explore, reveal the museum’s moralizing ambitions insofar as the experience of the Sérilly room offered the visitors a unique opportunity for self-definition. The idea of a virtual voyage to another time and place carried by the décor and content of the Sérilly room was further emphasized by its location within the museum. Perhaps surprisingly for current eyes used to find artworks grouped according to period, school, style or even theme, this period room stood at the south end of the Oriental Courts dedicated to examples of the art and workmanship of Eastern origin [4]. As listed in the 1870 museum guide, before reaching the boudoir, one walked among objects produced in the East Indies, China, Japan and Persia. The latter included lacquered work, painted and woven screens, weapons, bronze vases, groups of high relief figures, enamels, porcelain, carvings in jade, ivory and stone, a collection of photographs of Indian architecture, various textiles and painting on silk.47 Fig 4. View largeDownload slide South Kensington Museum, Ground Plan, published in A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, 1870. Digitized by Google, Original from Harvard University, Cambridge. Fig 4. View largeDownload slide South Kensington Museum, Ground Plan, published in A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, 1870. Digitized by Google, Original from Harvard University, Cambridge. Whether the position of the period room was the result of a coincidence or not, the journey through the longitudinal galleries of the Oriental Courts that preceded its experience had gender implications for it underpinned the already taken for granted eighteenth-century association between the boudoir and the feminine, as well as stereotypes connecting femininity and exoticism prevalent during the nineteenth century. Juliet Kinchin has already noted that in the domestic sphere during this period, femininity was regularly constructed in relation to French and Oriental styles, thereby reinforcing ‘the peripheral nature of ‘feminine’ taste’.48 In addition, the location of the room echoed (consciously or not) an association between the boudoir and exoticism seemingly common in the British socio-historical context of the time. As Anne Troutman argues: As the carnality of the eighteenth century was reviled by the increasingly puritanical and sexually repressive Victorian era, the overtly sexual purpose of the earlier boudoir was displaced by and encoded in exotic narratives. Objects, furnishings, and decorations borrowed from Middle Eastern cultures eroticized female sexuality, linking the exotic and the erotic. The boudoir became a fantasy space in which the erotic ‘other’ was allowed, not in the form of flesh and blood, but in the realm of the imagination.49 Because of its neoclassical furniture and décor depicting the four elements, the four seasons and mythological deities, the Sérilly room was not precisely exotic in the terms evoked by Kinchin and Troutman. Rather, the association between the boudoir and exoticism is to be found in the surrounding galleries whose content contrasted with the Europeanness of this room. While I believe that this close connection between Eastern and Western productions was not meant to promote a hierarchy based on the design quality of the objects on display, it nevertheless induced a tension between otherness and familiarity. Indeed, this museum period room offered a setting very different from the visitors’ own domestic interiors in nineteenth-century London and simultaneously conjured a world more familiar than the countries and customs evoked by the Asian treasures exhibited nearby. A similar tension, this time involving the moral dimension of the boudoir, was also at play inside the Sérilly room. The libertine lifestyle supposedly embraced by wealthy eighteenth-century Parisians that was conjured up by the room’s name and history was at odds with the functions of Victorian boudoirs which, according to Stefan Muthesius, were considered more as intimate retreats serving ‘the purely psychological needs’ of women than as licentious rooms.50 This observation echoes Lady Barker’s position as expressed in her 1878 book The Bedroom and Boudoir where she compares the boudoir to a ‘lovely nest’ and describes it as ‘a place to idle and sulk in’, thus reaffirming the non-sexual purposes of this feminine space.51 I argue that this ‘familiar but different’ dialectic fraught with tensions and ambiguities initiated a process in the course of which visitors were invited to negotiate their own geographical and social position and, in so doing, to construct themselves as morally superior subjects through their encounter with the object. This phenomenon is reminiscent of the role played by the illusionistic settings constructed for Exhibitions and Fairs. As explained by Coombes, the latter contributed to the construction of a British national identity by showcasing the superiority of Europeans against the primitiveness of colonized societies.52 However, the immersive experience offered by the Sérilly room and its evocative qualities brought this process to another level. The museum encouraged visitors to set their tastes, values and even their homes against those of ‘Others’ not by relegating them to the status of mere spectators, but rather by giving them the possibility of engaging both physically (as they entered into it) and intellectually (through an imaginary projection in a remote time and place) with the period room. Moreover, if the disparity between the European period room and the Asian objects displayed nearby somehow paralleled the imperialist rhetoric put forward in International Exhibitions and Fairs, the key aspect to take into consideration here is the domestic referent of the Sérilly room. Deborah Cohen has demonstrated the significance of the domestic interior for the construction of the self towards the end of the nineteenth century noting that, during this period, possessions ‘preceded identity; what you owned told others (and yourself) who you were’.53 Following a rationale according to which the self and material possessions were closely intertwined, the domestic interior actively contributed to both the construction of identity and to its mediation, for ‘possessions could communicate their owner’s individuality’.54 The active role played by objects for the development of one’s identity was further strengthened by the fact that, on the one hand, things were granted moral qualities55 and, on the other hand, humans were considered as being ‘uniquely susceptible to their environments [so that] furniture offered the chance to mould the man’.56 How did such a process work in the case of a period room? Obviously, the objects exhibited within the museum, and this was especially true for something as luxurious as this boudoir, were by no means universally affordable. In this context, the power of evocation and the immersive experience arising from the distinctive form of the Sérilly room were crucial. It was not at the level of actual possession, but rather through the museum’s invitation to visitors to project themselves through the lens of the boudoir, that the process of self-definition could occur. Because it relied on the power of the visitors’ imagination, this phenomenon is comparable to the ways in which publications dedicated to interior decoration and design could contribute to the shaping of one’s identity. Although she refers to a later example, Penny Sparke has demonstrated that Elsie de Wolfe’s book The House in Good Taste (New York, 1913) ‘offered the potential for self-expression and self-realization, if not through action at least through fantasy and imagination’,57 a process that was arguably supported by many nineteenth-century publications similar in aims and content. However, unlike the magazines and books that were widely disseminated and that could be read at home—that is, in a space which potentially already bore the marks of its inhabitants—the Sérilly room was meant to be experienced in the rational environment of the museum as a place of knowledge. The South Kensington Museum was a government-funded institution that aimed at improving public taste as well as the general quality of British manufactured goods.58 It was also a place where one could compare the aesthetic and material characteristics of art and design produced in England, the British colonies and the rest of the world. As such, it played a significant role in the construction of the country’s identity. Furthermore, in addition to being intimately related to political and economic issues, such pedagogical ambitions went hand in hand with a moralizing agenda, an ideal that was commonly shared by museums during the nineteenth century. As underlined by Chantal Georgel, it was commonplace to think of the museum as a temple where the beautiful was synonymous with morality and the good.59 Bearing this in mind, it was strongly believed that, through its teaching and by awakening its visitors to the beauties of art, the museum had the power to impact their behaviour notably by diverting them from idleness and bad influences.60 Given this intellectual context, to display a French eighteenth-century boudoir in which visitors were invited to enter and project themselves might appear nonsense, in spite of its aesthetic qualities. As a matter of fact, as a space dedicated to, among others, libertine and non-procreative sexual intercourses, the boudoir did not serve a socially useful purpose but rather allowed one to yield to carnal desire, a lack of will and self-control that was potentially threatening according to the standards of bourgeois morality.61 This contradiction, which echoes Francis O’Gorman and Katherine Turner’s assertion that the Victorian’s relationship with the eighteenth century was ‘uneasy’ and ‘complicated’,62 was resolved in the staging of the Sérilly room. In a way that seemed to both comply with the moral standards of the time as described in Troutman’s aforementioned quotation and reassert the primary non-sexual functions of this space, the eroticism suggested by the name ‘boudoir’ was tempered by the room’s content and layout. At the outset, the curtains that would have made the room more intimate had long since disappeared,63 and the numerous chairs (rather than a sofa or an ottoman) suggested sociability more than privacy. Although the harp, as it was meant to be placed between the legs and embraced, might have evoked a certain level of sensuality, it was considered as an appropriate instrument to be heard in polite circles.64 The fact that visitors were allowed to enter the room instead of being constrained to adopt a voyeuristic position by peeping through the window and door—as can be seen in many eighteenth-century representations of boudoir scenes [5]—also tempered the boudoir’s erotic charge. Similarly, the admittance of a likely large number of men certainly contributed to neutralize the aura of secrecy that surrounded the boudoir as a feminine private retreat thus undermining its sexual appeal while at the same time depriving women of their (presumably threatening) power when in total control of this space. Moreover, the unproven story according to which Madame de Sérilly had set up this room as a ‘pleasant surprise’ for her husband might have contributed to make acceptable, in the name of marital and legitimate love, the presence of a room once associated with potentially licentious relationships within the Victorian public space of the museum. Fig 5. View largeDownload slide Pierre Maleuvre, after Sigmund Freudenberger, Le boudoir, 1774, etching and engraving. National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, Washington. Fig 5. View largeDownload slide Pierre Maleuvre, after Sigmund Freudenberger, Le boudoir, 1774, etching and engraving. National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, Washington. Far from being inconsequential, these details point to the ways in which the institution framed the process of self-definition that occurred through the experience of the Sérilly room. They reveal how, by virtue of its authority, the South Kensington Museum transformed the libertine dimension of a so-called boudoir by creating a nineteenth-century museum-made object, the period room, which significations were in keeping with the moralizing ambition typical of museum institutions during this period and to which visitors were invited to relate. Indeed, the binary opposition between the erotic connotations of the room’s name and its treatment in the museum is consistent with the fact that, as an institution, the museum is empowered to establish standards by which the visitors’ ‘subjectivation’ can occur. Borrowed from Michel Foucault, the notion of subjectivation refers to the process through which the individual recognizes himself or herself as a subject in relation to a norm.65 In the context of the nineteenth-century museum where power and knowledge feed off each other, the norm is not meant to be challenged but rather integrated in order to ‘improve’ one’s taste, behaviour and moral thus making him or her a better citizen. The norm foregrounded here resounds with the standards of bourgeois respectability, a term that, as defined by George L. Mosse, indicates what are considered to be ‘“decent and correct” manners and morals, as well as proper attitude toward sexuality’.66 As Mosse explains, ‘[r]espectability was thought essential for the maintenance of an ordered society’,67 and, although first associated with bourgeoisie, it rapidly impacted the lifestyle of all classes of the European population during the nineteenth century.68 More specifically, in the case of the Sérilly room, this means that the (im)moral implication of French eighteenth-century aristocratic decadence, paired with geographical exoticism of faraway lands, was modified—or perhaps reformed?—according to the ideals of chaste sociability and companionate marriage. By counteracting (at least on the surface) the latent threat of the supposedly depraved, even perverse, and hence abnormal sexuality that once took place in the boudoir, the museum promoted the moral standards of bourgeois society imbued with values of self-control, modesty and politeness. Unsurprisingly, by the same token, it also demonstrated its own merit and interest as a public institution. Conclusion Whether or not the Sérilly room was offered as a paradoxically titillating lesson in morality will probably never be known. This is also true of its actual impact on visitors, which can hardly be measured today. It is nevertheless possible to get a sense of this period room status, meanings and functions through a combined examination of primary sources and contemporary theories regarding the museum’s mechanisms. The South Kensington Museum handbook informs us on the context in which the room was shown, while the press coverage, both written and illustrated, provides a glimpse of the importance it had at the time of its acquisition. From the perspective of museum’s theories, given the period rooms’ material and intellectual complexity, their meanings must be examined in the light of their own history and context of display, and generalizations must be avoided. Yet, as demonstrated with the Sérilly room, they can arguably contribute to the construction of the visitors’ identity in a way that differs from any other object displayed in a museum thanks to the combination of their unique immersive form, their evocative power and their domestic referent, which makes them easily legible and prone to trigger imagination even still today. Despite its specificity, this study of the ways in which the making of the Sérilly room impacted the significations of its components in a manner that supported the museum’s moralizing ambitions opens new avenues to think about the epistemological issues embedded in the choice of exhibiting artefacts as a period room. If you have any comments to make in relation to this article, please go to the journal website on http://jdh.oxfordjournals.org and access this article. There is a facility on the site for sending e-mail responses to the editorial board and other readers. Marie-Ève Marchand is an FRQSC postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Art History at Concordia University and a sessional lecturer at Université de Montréal where she teaches in Art History and in the Masters in museology programme. Her research focuses on the so-called decorative arts, especially their materiality and the epistemological issues arising from their collecting and display in both museums and domestic interiors. Her recent publications include articles in RACAR (2014), Esse: Art + Opinions (2015), Espace: Art actuel (2015), and Musées (2017), as well as book chapters in edited volume with Bononia University Press (2016) and Bloomsbury (forthcoming). Notes 1 The presence of a narrow, slightly diagonal breach in the wall adjoining the house and boudoir suggests that there might also have been a secret access to the room. However, this passage is perhaps a later addition as this plan dates from 1850. 2 Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Woodwork, The Panelled Rooms: The Boudoir of Madame de Sérilly, vol. III (London: Board of Education, 1925), 12. 3 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum (London: Spottiswood & Co., 1870), 19. 4 ‘The Boudoir in the South Kensington Museum’, The Architect 2 (1869): 280; ‘South Kensington Museum’, Journal of the Society of Arts (1869): 127. In 1870, it was ‘partly furnished with suitable contemporary objects, selected chiefly from loan contributions of A. Barker, Esq.’ A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., p. 19. 5 My position contradicts John Harris’s assertion that the Sérilly room was not one of the first museum period rooms because ‘at first, it was not displayed with an ensemble of furniture’. John Harris, Moving Rooms: The Trade in Architectural Salvages (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007), 125–126. 6 See, among others, Edward P. Alexander, ‘Artistic and Historical Period Rooms’, Curator: The Museum Journal 7 (1964): 263–281; Pascal Griener, ‘Florence à Manhattan. La Period Room, des magasins européens aux gratte-ciels américains (1890–1939)’, Studiolo 8 (2010): 123–131; Harris, op. cit.; Bruno Pons, Grands décors français: 1650–1800. Reconstitués en Angleterre, aux États-Unis, en Amérique du Sud et en France (Dijon: Éditions Faton, 1995). 7 Dianne H. Pilgrim, ‘Inherited from the Past: The American Period Room’, American Art Journal 10 (1978), 5–6; Harris, op. cit., pp. 124, 129. 8 Victoria and Albert Museum, The Panelled Rooms, op. cit.; Margaret English and Lisa Scalisi, ‘The Sérilly Cabinet. Anne-Marie de Sérilly and the Story of the “Boudoir”’, The V & A Album 4 (1985): 197–202. 9 Henry Cole, First Report of the Department of Practical Art (London: George E. Eyre & William Spottiswoode, 1853), 30. 10 Various symposiums addressing period rooms have been held over the past few years, including at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (2012 and 2016), The Bowes Museum (2014) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008). Recent books on the topic include Sandra Costa, Dominique Poulot and Mercedes Volet, eds, The Period rooms: allestimenti storici tra arte, collezionismo e museologica (Bologna: Bononia University Press, 2016); Harris, op. cit.; Penny Sparke, Brenda Martin and Trevor Keeble, eds, The Modern Period Room. The Construction of the Exhibited Interior 1870–1950 (London and New York: Routledge, 2006). Numerous articles and doctoral dissertations have also been produced. 11 Victoria and Albert Museum, The Panelled Rooms, op. cit., p. 9. 12 See, for instance, Karen Wonders, ‘The Illusionary Art of Background Painting in Habitat Dioramas’, Curator: The Museum Journal 33 (1990): 92; Raymond Montpetit, ‘Une logique d’exposition populaire: les images de la muséographie analogique’, Publics et Musées 9 (1996): 61–63. 13 Most of these pursuits were scripted, and the natives performing (who were sometimes professional actors) were likely to be exploited financially, culturally and intellectually. Annie E. Coombes, ‘Museums and the Formation of National and Cultural Identities’, Oxford Art Journal 11 (1988): 59; James Clifford, Routes. Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 197–204. 14 Coombes, op. cit., p. 59. 15 See, for instance, Arthur Hazelius’s open-air ethnographic park Skansen opened in 1891. Edward P. Alexander, Museum Masters: Their Museum and their Influence (Nashville: The American Association for State and Local History, 1983), 239–275. 16 While this is especially true with regard to permanent displays, mannequins are sometimes used as part of temporary exhibits as in the case of Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century shown in the period rooms of the Wrightsman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2004. 17 Karen Wonders, ‘Exhibiting Fauna—From Spectacle to Habitat Group’, Curator: The Museum Journal 32 (1989): 135. 18 Ibid. 19 See Gottfried Semper, The Ideal Museum. Practical Art in Metals and Hard Materials (Vienna: Schlebrügge, 2007 [1852]); Michael Conforti, ‘Le musée des arts appliqués’, in Histoire de l’histoire de l’art: tome 2, ed. Édouard Pommier (Paris: Louvre, Klincksieck, 1995–1997), 337–338; Harry Francis Mallgrave, Gottfried Semper: Architect of the Nineteenth Century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996), 310. 20 A Catalogue of the Museum of Ornamental Art at Marlborough House (London: Chapman and Hall, 1853), 5, printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode. 21 For a discussion on the ‘correct principles in decoration’ as envisaged by the South Kensington Museum, see A Catalogue of the Museum of Ornamental Art at Marlborough House, op. cit., pp. 5–8, 13–22. See also Christopher Frayling, Henry Cole and the Chamber of Horrors. The Curious Origins of the Victoria and Albert Museum (London: V&A Publishing, 2010); Marie-Ève Marchand, ‘L’impossible “chambre des horreurs” du Museum of Ornamental Art: une archéologie du design criminel’, RACAR: Revue d’art canadienne/Canadian Art Review 39 (2014): 40–51. 22 Red Spider, ‘Artistic Homes’, Myra’s Journal of Dress and Fashion 14 (1888): 676. 23 M. B. W., ‘A Boudoir of the Eighteenth Century’, The Art Amateur 6 (1882): 63–64. 24 Adriaan De Jong and Matte Skougaard, ‘Les intérieurs de Hindeloopen et d’Amager: deux exemples d’un phénomène muséographique’, Publics et Musées 9 (1996): 24. 25 M. B. W., op. cit., p. 63. It should nevertheless be noted that the components of a museum period room were not always more authentic than those used in Exhibitions and Fairs and that the latter were not inescapably fakes. For instance, a number of period rooms have been de-accessioned after discovering that the panelling was an assemblage of original fragments and later additions. See Harris, op. cit., pp. 151, 166, 179. 26 See, among others, Spencer R. Crew and James E. Sims, ‘Locating Authenticity: Fragments of a Dialogue’, in Exhibiting Cultures. The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 159–175. 27 This information was published in A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., p. 19. It was repeated in various journal articles over the ensuing years including Gulielmus, ‘A Visit to the South Kensington Museum’, The Friendly Companion IV (1878): 80; M. B. W., op. cit., p. 63; Spider, op. cit., p. 676. 28 In addition to these misattributions, as noted by English and Scalisi, the alcove, which should have faced the entry door, was misplaced; the ceiling was rotated 90°, introducing discrepancies in the room’s iconographic programme; and some boiserie panels were inverted. Op. cit., p. 199. 29 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., 17, 19; ‘South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 127; M. B. W., op. cit., p. 64; ‘The Boudoir in the South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 280. 30 Frédéric Elsig, Charlotte Guichard, Peter Parshall, Philippe Sénéchal and Philippe Bordes, ‘Le connoisseurship et ses révisions méthodologiques’, Perspective 3 (2009): 345. 31 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., p. 13; ‘South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 127. It must be noted that, in his 1857 lecture On the Museum of Art, the superintendent of the art collection John Charles Robinson listed ‘the complete carved oak panelling of a room, from an ancient house at Exeter’ among the museum acquisitions. There seems to be no documentation as to whether these panels were intended to be exhibited as a period room or not. John Charles Robinson, Introductory Addresses on the Science and Art Department and the South Kensington Museum, no 5: On The Museum of Art, delivered 14 December 1857 (London: Chapman and Hall, 1858), 17. See also Harris, op. cit., pp. 124–125. 32 ‘South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 127. 33 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., p. 13; ‘South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 127. 34 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., ‘Table of contents’, 17. 35 As noted by John Harris, an empty room is not a period room. op. cit., pp. x, 125–127. 36 Emphasis added. ‘South Kensington Museum’, The Illustrated London News, 25 November 1871, p. 497. 37 M. B. W., op. cit., p. 63. 38 It should nevertheless be noted that when the South Kensington opened as the Museum of Ornamental Art at Marlborough House in 1852, everyone who paid the sixpence admission fee to access the galleries on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays could ‘upon payment of a further fee of sixpence and washing his hands before handling the specimen, may demand to have any article removed from its case for minute inspection’. H. Cole, op. cit., p. 33. 39 See, for instance, her description of an ideal Louis XVI boudoir furnished with porcelain. H. R. Haweis, The Art of Decoration (London: Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly, 1881), 159–165. 40 Histoire de Marie-Antoinette written by the Goncourt brothers in 1858 and Charles Duke Younge’s The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France (1876) are two examples. Biographies also took the form of plays, such as Palgrave Simpson’s Marie Antoinette, which was performed in 1869 at the Princess’s Theatre in London. 41 Terry Castle, ‘Marie-Antoinette Obsession’, in Marie-Antoinette. Writings on the Body of a Queen, ed. Dena Goodman (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 213. 42 See, among others, Ed Lilley, ‘The Name of the Boudoir’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 53 (1994): 193–198; Michel Delon, L’invention du boudoir (Cardeilhan: Zulma, 1999). 43 This is, for instance, what happened to Mélite, a fictional character in Jean-François de Bastide’s novel La petite Maison (1753). Invited by the Marquis de Trémicourt to visit his ‘little house’, Mélite was challenged to resist the Marquis’s advances. The wager was lost (or won depending on the point of view) in the second boudoir where Mélite finally succumbed to the room’s beauty and erotic appeal more than to that of the Marquis. 44 Delon, op. cit., p. 17. 45 Ibid., p. 18. 46 The stereotype of the period room as a time capsule has been a commonplace at least since the first half of the twentieth century and continues today. See, for instance, Kristina Wilson, ‘Style and Lifestyle in the Machine Age—The Modernist Period Rooms of the “Architect and the Visual Arts”’, Visual Resources 21 (2005): 255–256. 47 A Guide to the South Kensongton Museum, op. cit., p. 17. 48 Juliet Kinchin, ‘Interiors: Nineteenth-Century Essays on the “Masculine” and the “Feminine” Room’, in The Gendered Object, ed. Pat Kirkham (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), 16. 49 Anne Troutman, ‘The Modernist Boudoir and the Erotics of Space’, in Negotiating Domesticity: Spatial Productions of Gender in Modern Architecture, ed. Hilde Heynen and Gülsüm Baydar (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), 304. 50 Stefan Muthesius, The Poetic Home. Designing the 19th-Century Domestic Interior (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2009), 156–157. 51 Lady Barker, The Bedroom and Boudoir (London: Macmillan and Co, 1878), 33, 84. For a more in-depth discussion of the meanings of the boudoir according to Barker, see Mark Taylor and Julieanna Preston, ‘Interior Bowers: Dormant Wilderness in Nineteenth Century Boudoir’, IDEA Journal (2005): 75–83. 52 Coombes, op. cit., p. 65. 53 Deborah Cohen, Household Gods: The British and Their Possessions (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 86. 54 Ibid., p. 127. 55 Ibid., p. x. 56 Ibid., p. 13. 57 Emphasis added. Penny Sparke, ‘The “Ideal” and the “Real” in Elsie de Wolfe’s “The House in Good Taste” of 1913’, Journal of Design History 16 (2003), 69. 58 H. Cole, op. cit., p. 2; Anthony Burton, ‘The Uses of the South Kensington Art Collections’, Journal of the History of Collection 14 (2002): 81; Rafael Cardoso Denis, ‘Teaching by Example: Education and the Formation of South Kensington’s Museums’, in A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. Malcom Baker and Brenda Richardson (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997), 107–116. 59 Chantal Georgel, ‘Le musée, lieu d’enseignement, d’instruction et d’édification’, in La jeunesse des musées. Les musées de France au XIXe siècle, ed. Chantal Georgel (Paris: Éditions de la réunion des musées nationaux, 1994), 66. 60 Henry Cole, the first director of the South Kensington Museum, even believed that his institution would serve as an alternative to the ‘gin palace’. Richard Dunn and Anthony Burton, ‘The Victoria and Albert Museum: An Illustrated Chronology’, in A Grand Design: The History of the Victoria and Albert Museum, op. cit. p. 57. 61 Regarding the threatening power of non-procreative or purely pleasure-driven sexual practices, see George L. Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality. Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in Modern Europe (New York: Howard Fertig, 1985), 26–27, 54. 62 Francis O’Gorman and Katherine Turner, eds, The Victorians and the Eighteenth Century: Reassessing the Tradition (Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2004), 3. 63 It is only as a result of a restoration programme carried out in the 1980s that the holes intended to hold fittings for the curtains that would have covered the window and door were discovered. English and Scalisi, op. cit., p. 202. 64 Florence Hartley, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness. A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society (Boston: G. W. Cottrell Publisher, 1860), 188. 65 Michel Foucault, ‘Le jeu de Michel Foucault’, 1977 in Dits et Écrits, 1954–1988, ed. Daniel Defert and François Ewald (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), 298–329. Regarding the construction of the subject within the museum space, see Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum. History, Theory, Politics (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 59–88. 66 Mosse, op. cit., p. 1. 67 Ibid., p. 182. 68 Ibid., p. 2. It should be noted that the museum was a powerful tool to bring order in society (see, for instance, Bennett, op. cit.) and that, thanks to their Universalist ambitions, many were meant to be useful for every classes of society although their museographic choices, opening hours and condition of admission sometimes seemed to be in contradiction with this goal. © The Author(s) [2018]. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Design History Society. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Design History Oxford University Press

A Parisian Boudoir in London: The South Kensington Museum Sérilly Room

Journal of Design History , Volume Advance Article (2) – Feb 26, 2018

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) [2018]. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Design History Society. All rights reserved.
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0952-4649
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Abstract

Abstract In 1869, the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum, purchased the panelling, painted ceiling, windows and chimneypiece from an eighteenth-century Parisian room created in 1778 for the Marquise de Sérilly. This boudoir, as it was then called, was exhibited furnished at least from December 1869 and can thus be considered as one of the first period rooms ever to be installed in a museum. The first part of this article examines what made the Sérilly room distinct in comparison to other similar types of display and to the other objects exhibited in the galleries. It demonstrates that the period room can be considered a ‘museum-made’ object and underlines the specificity of the experience it offered to nineteenth-century visitors. The second part focuses on the significations of this singular object within the context of a Victorian institution with pedagogical ambitions. It shows how the transformation of this former domestic interior into a period room impacted its original status and meanings in a way that is revealing the museum’s moralizing ambitions. In so doing, it argues that the Sérilly room offered the visitors a unique opportunity for self-definition by inviting them to construct themselves as morally superior subjects. In 1869, the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum, purchased the panelling, painted ceiling, windows and chimneypiece from an eighteenth-century Parisian room that had been created in 1778 for Anne-Marie-Louise-Jeanne Thomas de Dommangeville, Marquise de Sérilly (1762–99) [1]. Built to adjoin the outside wall of the Sérilly townhouse located in the Marais district in Paris, the small room—ten by fourteen feet—was seemingly accessible only through the garden [2].1 This layout, combined with the room’s tiny dimensions, certainly contributed to its designation as a French or Parisian boudoir in the nineteenth century, although it might as well have served as a cabinet or a writing room. At the moment of its acquisition by the museum from the French art dealer Paul Récappé2 and over the ensuing years, it was believed that the Marquise had fitted this room up ‘with the assistance of Queen Marie-Antoinette, to whom she had been a favourite maid of honour, and to have been completed during a temporary absence of her husband as a pleasant surprise for him on his return’.3 This far-fetched explanation, which evoked impulsiveness and fancy on the part of Madame de Sérilly and a glamorous pedigree for the room itself, further enhanced the aura of excess and luxury already conveyed by the idea of a French eighteenth-century boudoir and the lavishness of the room’s décor. Fig 1. View largeDownload slide Jean-Simeon Rousseau de la Rottière (designer), Panelled Room, 1778, carved, painted and gilded pine, 487 × 426 × 320 cm. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Fig 1. View largeDownload slide Jean-Simeon Rousseau de la Rottière (designer), Panelled Room, 1778, carved, painted and gilded pine, 487 × 426 × 320 cm. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Fig 2. View largeDownload slide Architectural plan of the Hotel Sérilly, 1850. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Fig 2. View largeDownload slide Architectural plan of the Hotel Sérilly, 1850. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Thanks to its well-preserved condition, this so-called boudoir might have appeared unchanged upon its entry into the South Kensington Museum. Nevertheless, its purpose and status were considerably altered as it was now meant to be shown to the nineteenth-century British public rather than used by a limited number of eighteenth-century French aristocrats. Furthermore, although it was acquired empty, the room was furnished with Sèvres porcelain vases and some Louis XVI furniture from at least December 1869.4 Accordingly, this space can be considered as one of the first period rooms ever to be installed in a museum.5 A period room can be defined as the combination of architectural components, pieces of furniture, as well as decorative objects organized to mirror—and sometimes to recreate—an interior, very often domestic, of the past. The number of period rooms exhibited in European institutions increased significantly in the late 1880s, primarily in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.6 The very few earlier museum examples that have been identified so far include ethnographical ‘vignettes’ comparable to wax museums displays shown by Artur Azelius at the Nordiska Museet (Stockholm) in 1873, a panelled room from the Zurich Alter Seidenhof acquired by the Zurich Kunstgewerbemuseum the same year, as well as a series of rooms made of seventeenth-century architectural fragments assembled by the Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers for the Historische Tentoonstelling van Amsterdam Museum (the Netherlands) in 1876.7 Accordingly, the exhibition of an eighteenth-century room comprising most of its original architectural components and furnished with period objects remained an isolated occurrence at the end of the 1860s, especially in England. While the history of the Sérilly room has been documented to the extent possible and the iconography and authorship of its décor thoroughly examined,8 no attention has been paid so far to the implications of its status as a new type of exhibit within the South Kensington Museum. What was the specificity of the period room in comparison to the other objects exhibited in the galleries? What were its significations within the context of a Victorian museum with pedagogical ambitions and dedicated to the collecting of decorative arts and design? To answer these two questions, I will first examine how, as a newcomer to the museum world, the period room was distinct from both the illusionistic exhibits shown in International Exhibitions and Fairs during the nineteenth century and the architectural fragments already on display in the galleries of the South Kensington Museum. This part of the analysis will demonstrate how the period room can be considered a ‘museum-made object’, while underlining the singularity of the experience it offered to nineteenth-century visitors. Second, I will envision the meanings of this room in relation to the conditions of its presentation within this museum which aimed at being ‘an impressive schoolroom for every one’9 and the intellectual context of the time. In addition to expanding our understanding of this early example of a museum period room, this section will shed new light on its contribution to the construction of the visitors’ identity in the mid-nineteenth century. In so doing, this article brings a historical perspective to the ongoing debates on period rooms that are of interest to both scholars, who are trying to better understand their complexity and numerous functions, and museums, who are refurbishing their period rooms or making them more critically engaging thanks to the display of site-specific artworks made by contemporary artists.10 For the sake of this study, whether the Sérilly room used to be a boudoir or not before its entry into the South Kensington Museum is irrelevant. This applies equally to the fact that no evidence exists to confirm that Madame de Sérilly had been a lady-of-honour to the Queen, nor that the latter contributed in any way to the fitting-out of this room, although both Madame de Sérilly and her first husband Antoine Jean-François Mégret de Sérilly had been friends with Madame Elisabeth of France, Louis XVI’s sister.11 Quite the contrary, building on these generally accepted assumptions will assist in demonstrating how the museumification of this domestic interior and its transformation into a period room impacted its meanings. A new museum-made object Throughout the nineteenth century, various types of contextualizing settings were created, notably as part of European and North American International Exhibitions and Fairs. The panoramas, already in use during the eighteenth century to provide a 360° view of a landscape, and the first dioramas, invented by Daguerre and Bouton in 1822, are cases in point. Through the skilful combination of painted perspectivist backgrounds, real objects and light effects, these apparatuses were used to convey a sense of a remote period or a distant geographical location.12 In so doing, they offered a unique immersive experience with an indisputably illusionistic character that mesmerized their viewers. In a similar vein, ethnographic displays were erected to theatrically stage members of colonized societies performing activities and rituals purportedly exemplary of their way of life to the delight of the crowd.13 These elaborate and appealing tridimensional environments, freighted with colonialist and imperialist agendas, could take the scale of mock villages in which the ‘Other’ was safely displayed and contained. As explained by Annie E. Coombes, by offering the opportunity to travel around the empire without departing from the site of the exhibition, ‘the villages successfully fostered a feeling of geographical proximity, while the sense of “spectacle” was calculated to preserve the cultural divide’.14 Comparable arrangements were also used to promote an idealized version of a country’s national past. Kitchens, bedrooms and other settings evoking traditional dwellings served as backgrounds to display stereotyped versions of rural folk culture that aimed at shoring up patriotism. Such illusionistic settings staging life groups were closely related to the museum period room, especially those evoking a domestic environment. Conceived as integrated installations in which the idea of a comprehensive whole predominated, they both built on reality effects to catch the attention of the visitors and offer them a unique possibility to encounter a foreign world—either temporally, geographically or both—that was presented as the ‘real thing’. However, regardless of these common features, the museum period room was distinct in a number of respects. First, the Sérilly room was shown without live performers or mannequins. While this situation has not always been prevalent, as in the case of period rooms included in ethnographic museums where costumed guides were present,15 it has since become the norm in most museums collecting artworks.16 This museographic choice on the part of the South Kensington Museum might be interpreted as a means to temper the sensationalism of life groups, thus making the period room more suitable for aesthetic education purposes. In her discussion on the rise of habitat dioramas in museums (the period room counterparts in the field of natural history), Karen Wonders has explained that, in the 1870s, most research-oriented institutions with scientific ambitions did not consider ‘dramatic taxidermic group as appropriate pedagogic display’.17 Rather, ‘they conceived of the proper display of scientific collections as systematic, uniform rows available primarily for scholarly examination’.18 This approach can be paralleled to the classification of objects based on material, a museographic strategy inherited from Gottfried Semper’s theories. Semper’s ideas, which were developed partly while he was at the South Kensington Museum, were adopted by numerous museums of decorative arts from the 1870s, prior to the development of period rooms.19 In the case of the Sérilly room, the absence of performers or mannequins suggests that the history of lifestyle commonly portrayed by life groups gave way to a focus on the aesthetic qualities of the objects, an approach that already prevailed in the surrounding galleries. Although aesthetic concerns were never completely disconnected from a certain type of lifestyle during the Victorian era, this strategy was consistent with the museum’s will to ‘illustrate the history of various manufactures,—some for extreme skill of manufacture or workmanship’20 and, in so doing, to instill what were then considered as the ‘scientific’ basis of design on good principles.21 Indeed, cited as a ‘perfect specimen of a room decorated in the Louis XVI style’ in Myra’s Journal of Dress and Fashion,22 the Sérilly room certainly offered a very fine example of French savoir-faire in interior design thanks to its highly detailed wood carving and painting whose colours, according to an author in The Art Amateur, were ‘being contrasted with a taste and skill that very few nineteenth-century artists could surpass’.23 Furthermore, in this compromise between an appealing display and the scientific organization of the collections, the lack of human presence can also be interpreted as a way to leave more room to the imagination of visitors who can picture themselves inside the room and even enter it as it was the case here. As will later be discussed, this last point will prove crucial in establishing the specificity of the Sérilly room in comparison to other objects on display as well as its specific purpose in the galleries. Second, one of the most relevant aspects that made the museum period room distinct from the contextualizing settings used outside the museum seems to have been the importance given to its so-called authenticity. The kitchens, bedrooms, houses and mock villages created for International Exhibitions and Fairs could combine objects from various historical and geographical origins, and the use of pasteboard backdrops as well as custom-made props was not unusual. This was the case of a peasant room from Hindeloopen (the Netherlands) shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1878: the ceiling and walls were made of cardboard, the tiles were in trompe-l’oeil and pieces of furniture came from various locations, an arrangement that does not appear to have been the subject of any criticism.24 Quite the contrary, within the museum, special attention was paid to the genuineness and historical provenance of the architectural fragments, furniture and various objects that formed the room. In the case of the Sérilly room, this difference was underlined in the press where it was noted that, ‘[u]nlike most of the specimen “boudoirs” and “courts” furnished for exhibition purposes, this is genuine in almost every detail’.25 Despite this concern for authenticity—a very context-specific notion for that matter26—part of the Sérilly room’s aura was built on commonly held belief rather than evidence, as can be noticed in the room’s much publicized, yet unfounded, connection to Marie-Antoinette.27 Along similar lines, the painted neoclassical décor of the room’s panelling was misattributed to the rococo painters François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard; the lunette paintings to Charles-Joseph Natoire (who had died in Italy one year before the boudoir was constructed); and the mantelpiece to Claude Michel, known as Clodion. Only the name of Pierre Gouthière, who supplied the chimneypiece gilt bronze mounts, was accurate. In actual fact, the panelling was designed by Jean-Simeon Rousseau de la Rottière and his older brother Jules-Hugues, who were known for their work on Marie-Antoinette’s apartments at Versailles (1772) and for her Boudoir Turc at Fontainebleau (1777). Philippe-Laurent Roland sculpted the mantelpiece, and the four lunettes representing Pomona, Neptune, Vulcan and Juno, as well as the ceiling’s circular panel representing Jupiter, were painted by Jean-Jacques Lagrenée the Younger.28 Nevertheless, the epistemological shift epitomized by the attention paid to authorship and (illustrious) provenance in the room’s descriptions provided by the South Kensington Museum and in the press is coherent with an ambition for rigour and scientific accuracy commonly shared by museums that were then defining their institutional identity.29 Furthermore, this attitude is reminiscent of the importance given to connoisseurship in the field of art during this period.30 Accordingly, these (albeit wrong) attributions certainly contributed to confer intellectual veneer and credibility to an apparatus intimately connected with popular culture, thus legitimizing its presence in the galleries of a museum with educational and scientific ambitions. In addition to being distinct from the contextualizing settings found in International Exhibitions and Fairs, the museum period room also differed from the other objects on display in the galleries. As an institution dedicated to the collecting of decorative arts the South Kensington Museum exhibited architectural fragments and panelling salvaged from English houses. For instance, in 1870, one could find in the South Court ‘some graceful columns from Fife House, a fireplace and doorway from an old house in Carey Street recently demolished, [and] some paneling from the Bishop’s Palace in Exeter’.31 These ‘interesting bits of wood-carving’,32 as they were described in the press, were fragmental and displayed either on their own or as backdrops for furniture.33 On the contrary, the Sérilly room was exhibited as a complete four-wall space and it was organized as a logically furnished ensemble instead of being used as a mere backdrop. The latter aspect was key in forging the museum period room’s singularity as it contributed to actualize its referent. The period room’s referent is generally an idealized image of a clearly delineated domestic space (such as a bedroom, a kitchen, a study, etc.) and its materialization renders the display more easily legible to visitors in comparison to the mass of objects often piled up in the galleries. While the room’s name can be of some assistance in completing this task—its designation as a ‘French Boudoir’ and a ‘Parisian Boudoir’ were helpful in identifying the Sérilly room as such34—a period room’s referent will take shape first through its content and organization.35 The pieces of furniture and other objects shown need not only to be appropriate to the room; their arrangement must ensure its inner coherence by evoking a plausible, if not always historically accurate and in most cases stereotyped, referent. In other words, far from being limited to its mere constituents, the period room takes shape in its syntactic order, hence the importance of the consistent use of furniture within it. As depicted in an engraving published in The Illustrated London News in November 1871 [3], the Sérilly room was furnished with four chairs, a square table, an oval writing table, a harp by Georges Cousineau who was maker of stringed instruments appointed to Marie-Antoinette and a pair of miniature busts of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette placed on the mantelpiece. The content was not original to the room. Some pieces might have been chosen specifically to reinforce the supposed connection between the room and the French Queen, whereas others did not exactly match the furnishing of an eighteenth-century boudoir. For instance, the set of four identical chairs would probably have been replaced by a sofa or an ottoman, a choice whose implications will be addressed in the second part of this article. Nevertheless, the coordination of each piece as apparently dating from the same period and logically laid out to simulate an inhabited interior—instead of being lined up on a pedestal or enshrined in conservation glasses—was crucial to the perception and experience of this display as a boudoir by visitors. The combination of the room’s architectural structure, content and configuration allowed the space to be apprehended as a coherent ensemble in which all parts were tightly bound together to form a single entity. Fig 3. View largeDownload slide ‘Marie Antoinette’s Boudoir, South Kensington Museum’, from The Illustrated London News, 25 November 1871, vol. LIX, no. 1680, p. 496. Courtesy of Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library, Montreal. Fig 3. View largeDownload slide ‘Marie Antoinette’s Boudoir, South Kensington Museum’, from The Illustrated London News, 25 November 1871, vol. LIX, no. 1680, p. 496. Courtesy of Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library, Montreal. In that respect, unlike the other items collected, preserved and displayed in a museum, period rooms do not exist ‘on their own’ prior to their acquisition. Far from being the mere transposition of a former domestic interior into the galleries, they come into being through the combination of various artefacts chosen and put together by the institution. This making process presupposes potentially extensive material and conceptual interventions on the museum’s part, the denial of which is crucial to the very performance of period room as cohesive ensembles. This means that the fitting of the components with each other must be invisible to the visitors’ eyes, fading away to the benefit of the whole. Consequently, and considering the degree of involvement of the institution in the creation of period rooms, not only do they rank among the most complex strategies used to exhibit material culture, I argue that they can be considered as museum-made objects in themselves. This status, which can arguably be assigned to any museum period rooms, reminds us that the institution is not neutral and always impacts the signification of the objects on display. The quality of the Sérilly room as an object within the museum space was corroborated through the language adopted in the press where it was precisely designated as ‘one of the objects that commonly attracts the curiosity of visitors’.36 Moreover, because of its small dimensions, it was likened to a ‘box’, and, thanks to its ‘exquisite’ decoration, it was described as a specific type of box: a ‘jewel-casket’.37 On the one hand, the association between the Sérilly room and a box reinforced its status as an autonomous entity, that is, as a clearly delimitated whole that can be moved around without compromising its material integrity, just like any other ‘autonomous’ object in the museum galleries. On the other hand, the reference to a jewel-casket pointed to the preciousness of the boudoir, a parallel which can be regarded as an acceptance of its legitimacy within an institution dedicated to the preservation of treasured objects accorded the status of artworks. By virtue of this process of objectification, the presence of this form of exhibition closely related to the spectacular and highly popular life groups shown in International Exhibitions and Fairs was further legitimized within the walls of the museum. As a tridimensional museum-made entity, this period room could be apprehended in a way that challenged the limits traditionally imposed by an object’s surface. Instead of staring at a painting’s flat plan and instead of circling around a sculpture, visitors had the opportunity to get inside the Sérilly room, as can be seen in the print published in The Illustrated London News in which a man and a woman are shown standing side by side in a corner of the boudoir [3]. Once inside this object, the visitors’ movements were probably limited and it is unlikely that they were allowed to touch or use the room’s components.38 Nevertheless, they were invited to engage in an immersive experience prone to nurture a greater sense of intimacy between the subject and the object because it reversed the visitors’ conventional relationship towards the latter by literally positioning them ‘outside in’. Just like the couple depicted in the print, visitors had, at least for the duration of their visit, the unique opportunity of being surrounded by the object, almost becoming part of it. The relationship hence generated between the visitors and the period room was at once unique and paradoxical. On the one hand, as they penetrated the object, visitors were also placed on display. Somewhat aestheticized, even objectified to a certain extent as they were framed by the room, visitors became part of the show and participated in a sort of performance. On the other hand, as such they also disrupted the illusion of being transported to another time and place in the eyes of their fellow visitors who were confronted to the presence of people dressed in nineteenth-century London fashions within a French eighteenth-century environment. While it is relatively easy to notice that the experience of the Sérilly room contrasted with the ways in which one physically related to the other objects displayed in a museum, the significations of this period room and of its very experience are less obvious. To better understand the implications of this embodied form of interaction between the visitors and a museumified version of the domestic interior, I will now critically examine the meanings this French eighteenth-century boudoir might have had in the South Kensington Museum in the 1870s. From boudoir to period room: libertinage, travel and exoticism The Sérilly room was acquired at a time when eighteenth-century France was being reassessed in England, a phenomenon likely promoted by the Goncourt brothers’ practices of collecting and publications. French decoration trends of that period were discussed in journal articles and books such as Mrs Haweis’ The Art of Decoration,39 and British industries followed suit, as in the case of the ceramic manufacturer Minton & Co who did not hesitate to produce pieces inspired by porcelains made by the French royal manufactory of Sèvres prior to the Revolution. In the same vein, Queen Marie-Antoinette became a figure of great interest, a fact that certainly reinforced the royal myth surrounding the creation of the Sérilly room and heightened its allure. Several hagiographical biographies of the Queen as a tragic heroine were published during the second half of the nineteenth century40 and, as noted by Terry Castle, she even became ‘the object of a widespread and often curiously eroticized group fixation’ among British women sympathetic to the Ancien Régime.41 While the first boudoirs were probably spaces dedicated to meditation, rest and devotion, their uses as well as their significations fluctuated greatly over time. In the wealthiest French domestic interiors of the last decades of the eighteenth century, the boudoir came to be considered a private feminine space associated with leisure, voluptuousness and non-procreative sexual practices. In this room, where intimacy replaced sociability, lust and luxury were often indissociable and mutually enhancing.42 In this sense, the boudoir was not only a space to seduce, it was also considered a seductive space in itself that had the power to captivate anyone entering it, even the most prudish of users.43 This libertine space also alluded to both travel and exoticism. Michel Delon has pointed out that it was aboard a frigate named La Boudeuse that Louis Antoine de Bougainville reached Tahiti in 1768.44 Derived from the French verb bouder (to sulk), the boat’s name foregrounded the feelings of remoteness and solitude that can be experienced at sea, while also evoking one of the functions that gave the boudoir its name; a room in which to sulk. Upon their arrival, the sailors discovered what appeared to them to be a life of nudity and sexual freedom, and, in the popular imagination, the island became associated with a ‘primitive’ boudoir.45 In the meantime, boudoirs adorned with lacquered work, ‘chinoiseries’ and other ‘orientalizing’ décor were erected. This was the case, for instance, with the Fontainebleau ‘Turkish-style’ boudoir made by the Rousseau de la Rottière brothers that Louis XVI offered to Marie-Antoinette in 1777. Despite its name, as a period room the Sérilly room was not exactly a boudoir anymore. Through its objectification, it had lost its former function as a private and alluring retreat to become a space accessible to a large number of people. In this process, the room’s power as an agent of seduction was replaced by a power of evocation, a feature that still characterizes period rooms today. This power stems from the room’s cohesion and immersive form and is reflected notably in its capacity to transport—at least through imagination—the visitors to another time and place thus initiating what could be described as another form of voyage.46 Following this line of thought, I suggest that while the creation of the period room radically transformed the functions and status of the boudoir from which it originates, the references to libertinage, travel and exoticism remained, albeit in altered form. The ways in which these notions were impacted and displaced, as well as the new meanings they conveyed, as I will explore, reveal the museum’s moralizing ambitions insofar as the experience of the Sérilly room offered the visitors a unique opportunity for self-definition. The idea of a virtual voyage to another time and place carried by the décor and content of the Sérilly room was further emphasized by its location within the museum. Perhaps surprisingly for current eyes used to find artworks grouped according to period, school, style or even theme, this period room stood at the south end of the Oriental Courts dedicated to examples of the art and workmanship of Eastern origin [4]. As listed in the 1870 museum guide, before reaching the boudoir, one walked among objects produced in the East Indies, China, Japan and Persia. The latter included lacquered work, painted and woven screens, weapons, bronze vases, groups of high relief figures, enamels, porcelain, carvings in jade, ivory and stone, a collection of photographs of Indian architecture, various textiles and painting on silk.47 Fig 4. View largeDownload slide South Kensington Museum, Ground Plan, published in A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, 1870. Digitized by Google, Original from Harvard University, Cambridge. Fig 4. View largeDownload slide South Kensington Museum, Ground Plan, published in A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, 1870. Digitized by Google, Original from Harvard University, Cambridge. Whether the position of the period room was the result of a coincidence or not, the journey through the longitudinal galleries of the Oriental Courts that preceded its experience had gender implications for it underpinned the already taken for granted eighteenth-century association between the boudoir and the feminine, as well as stereotypes connecting femininity and exoticism prevalent during the nineteenth century. Juliet Kinchin has already noted that in the domestic sphere during this period, femininity was regularly constructed in relation to French and Oriental styles, thereby reinforcing ‘the peripheral nature of ‘feminine’ taste’.48 In addition, the location of the room echoed (consciously or not) an association between the boudoir and exoticism seemingly common in the British socio-historical context of the time. As Anne Troutman argues: As the carnality of the eighteenth century was reviled by the increasingly puritanical and sexually repressive Victorian era, the overtly sexual purpose of the earlier boudoir was displaced by and encoded in exotic narratives. Objects, furnishings, and decorations borrowed from Middle Eastern cultures eroticized female sexuality, linking the exotic and the erotic. The boudoir became a fantasy space in which the erotic ‘other’ was allowed, not in the form of flesh and blood, but in the realm of the imagination.49 Because of its neoclassical furniture and décor depicting the four elements, the four seasons and mythological deities, the Sérilly room was not precisely exotic in the terms evoked by Kinchin and Troutman. Rather, the association between the boudoir and exoticism is to be found in the surrounding galleries whose content contrasted with the Europeanness of this room. While I believe that this close connection between Eastern and Western productions was not meant to promote a hierarchy based on the design quality of the objects on display, it nevertheless induced a tension between otherness and familiarity. Indeed, this museum period room offered a setting very different from the visitors’ own domestic interiors in nineteenth-century London and simultaneously conjured a world more familiar than the countries and customs evoked by the Asian treasures exhibited nearby. A similar tension, this time involving the moral dimension of the boudoir, was also at play inside the Sérilly room. The libertine lifestyle supposedly embraced by wealthy eighteenth-century Parisians that was conjured up by the room’s name and history was at odds with the functions of Victorian boudoirs which, according to Stefan Muthesius, were considered more as intimate retreats serving ‘the purely psychological needs’ of women than as licentious rooms.50 This observation echoes Lady Barker’s position as expressed in her 1878 book The Bedroom and Boudoir where she compares the boudoir to a ‘lovely nest’ and describes it as ‘a place to idle and sulk in’, thus reaffirming the non-sexual purposes of this feminine space.51 I argue that this ‘familiar but different’ dialectic fraught with tensions and ambiguities initiated a process in the course of which visitors were invited to negotiate their own geographical and social position and, in so doing, to construct themselves as morally superior subjects through their encounter with the object. This phenomenon is reminiscent of the role played by the illusionistic settings constructed for Exhibitions and Fairs. As explained by Coombes, the latter contributed to the construction of a British national identity by showcasing the superiority of Europeans against the primitiveness of colonized societies.52 However, the immersive experience offered by the Sérilly room and its evocative qualities brought this process to another level. The museum encouraged visitors to set their tastes, values and even their homes against those of ‘Others’ not by relegating them to the status of mere spectators, but rather by giving them the possibility of engaging both physically (as they entered into it) and intellectually (through an imaginary projection in a remote time and place) with the period room. Moreover, if the disparity between the European period room and the Asian objects displayed nearby somehow paralleled the imperialist rhetoric put forward in International Exhibitions and Fairs, the key aspect to take into consideration here is the domestic referent of the Sérilly room. Deborah Cohen has demonstrated the significance of the domestic interior for the construction of the self towards the end of the nineteenth century noting that, during this period, possessions ‘preceded identity; what you owned told others (and yourself) who you were’.53 Following a rationale according to which the self and material possessions were closely intertwined, the domestic interior actively contributed to both the construction of identity and to its mediation, for ‘possessions could communicate their owner’s individuality’.54 The active role played by objects for the development of one’s identity was further strengthened by the fact that, on the one hand, things were granted moral qualities55 and, on the other hand, humans were considered as being ‘uniquely susceptible to their environments [so that] furniture offered the chance to mould the man’.56 How did such a process work in the case of a period room? Obviously, the objects exhibited within the museum, and this was especially true for something as luxurious as this boudoir, were by no means universally affordable. In this context, the power of evocation and the immersive experience arising from the distinctive form of the Sérilly room were crucial. It was not at the level of actual possession, but rather through the museum’s invitation to visitors to project themselves through the lens of the boudoir, that the process of self-definition could occur. Because it relied on the power of the visitors’ imagination, this phenomenon is comparable to the ways in which publications dedicated to interior decoration and design could contribute to the shaping of one’s identity. Although she refers to a later example, Penny Sparke has demonstrated that Elsie de Wolfe’s book The House in Good Taste (New York, 1913) ‘offered the potential for self-expression and self-realization, if not through action at least through fantasy and imagination’,57 a process that was arguably supported by many nineteenth-century publications similar in aims and content. However, unlike the magazines and books that were widely disseminated and that could be read at home—that is, in a space which potentially already bore the marks of its inhabitants—the Sérilly room was meant to be experienced in the rational environment of the museum as a place of knowledge. The South Kensington Museum was a government-funded institution that aimed at improving public taste as well as the general quality of British manufactured goods.58 It was also a place where one could compare the aesthetic and material characteristics of art and design produced in England, the British colonies and the rest of the world. As such, it played a significant role in the construction of the country’s identity. Furthermore, in addition to being intimately related to political and economic issues, such pedagogical ambitions went hand in hand with a moralizing agenda, an ideal that was commonly shared by museums during the nineteenth century. As underlined by Chantal Georgel, it was commonplace to think of the museum as a temple where the beautiful was synonymous with morality and the good.59 Bearing this in mind, it was strongly believed that, through its teaching and by awakening its visitors to the beauties of art, the museum had the power to impact their behaviour notably by diverting them from idleness and bad influences.60 Given this intellectual context, to display a French eighteenth-century boudoir in which visitors were invited to enter and project themselves might appear nonsense, in spite of its aesthetic qualities. As a matter of fact, as a space dedicated to, among others, libertine and non-procreative sexual intercourses, the boudoir did not serve a socially useful purpose but rather allowed one to yield to carnal desire, a lack of will and self-control that was potentially threatening according to the standards of bourgeois morality.61 This contradiction, which echoes Francis O’Gorman and Katherine Turner’s assertion that the Victorian’s relationship with the eighteenth century was ‘uneasy’ and ‘complicated’,62 was resolved in the staging of the Sérilly room. In a way that seemed to both comply with the moral standards of the time as described in Troutman’s aforementioned quotation and reassert the primary non-sexual functions of this space, the eroticism suggested by the name ‘boudoir’ was tempered by the room’s content and layout. At the outset, the curtains that would have made the room more intimate had long since disappeared,63 and the numerous chairs (rather than a sofa or an ottoman) suggested sociability more than privacy. Although the harp, as it was meant to be placed between the legs and embraced, might have evoked a certain level of sensuality, it was considered as an appropriate instrument to be heard in polite circles.64 The fact that visitors were allowed to enter the room instead of being constrained to adopt a voyeuristic position by peeping through the window and door—as can be seen in many eighteenth-century representations of boudoir scenes [5]—also tempered the boudoir’s erotic charge. Similarly, the admittance of a likely large number of men certainly contributed to neutralize the aura of secrecy that surrounded the boudoir as a feminine private retreat thus undermining its sexual appeal while at the same time depriving women of their (presumably threatening) power when in total control of this space. Moreover, the unproven story according to which Madame de Sérilly had set up this room as a ‘pleasant surprise’ for her husband might have contributed to make acceptable, in the name of marital and legitimate love, the presence of a room once associated with potentially licentious relationships within the Victorian public space of the museum. Fig 5. View largeDownload slide Pierre Maleuvre, after Sigmund Freudenberger, Le boudoir, 1774, etching and engraving. National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, Washington. Fig 5. View largeDownload slide Pierre Maleuvre, after Sigmund Freudenberger, Le boudoir, 1774, etching and engraving. National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, Washington. Far from being inconsequential, these details point to the ways in which the institution framed the process of self-definition that occurred through the experience of the Sérilly room. They reveal how, by virtue of its authority, the South Kensington Museum transformed the libertine dimension of a so-called boudoir by creating a nineteenth-century museum-made object, the period room, which significations were in keeping with the moralizing ambition typical of museum institutions during this period and to which visitors were invited to relate. Indeed, the binary opposition between the erotic connotations of the room’s name and its treatment in the museum is consistent with the fact that, as an institution, the museum is empowered to establish standards by which the visitors’ ‘subjectivation’ can occur. Borrowed from Michel Foucault, the notion of subjectivation refers to the process through which the individual recognizes himself or herself as a subject in relation to a norm.65 In the context of the nineteenth-century museum where power and knowledge feed off each other, the norm is not meant to be challenged but rather integrated in order to ‘improve’ one’s taste, behaviour and moral thus making him or her a better citizen. The norm foregrounded here resounds with the standards of bourgeois respectability, a term that, as defined by George L. Mosse, indicates what are considered to be ‘“decent and correct” manners and morals, as well as proper attitude toward sexuality’.66 As Mosse explains, ‘[r]espectability was thought essential for the maintenance of an ordered society’,67 and, although first associated with bourgeoisie, it rapidly impacted the lifestyle of all classes of the European population during the nineteenth century.68 More specifically, in the case of the Sérilly room, this means that the (im)moral implication of French eighteenth-century aristocratic decadence, paired with geographical exoticism of faraway lands, was modified—or perhaps reformed?—according to the ideals of chaste sociability and companionate marriage. By counteracting (at least on the surface) the latent threat of the supposedly depraved, even perverse, and hence abnormal sexuality that once took place in the boudoir, the museum promoted the moral standards of bourgeois society imbued with values of self-control, modesty and politeness. Unsurprisingly, by the same token, it also demonstrated its own merit and interest as a public institution. Conclusion Whether or not the Sérilly room was offered as a paradoxically titillating lesson in morality will probably never be known. This is also true of its actual impact on visitors, which can hardly be measured today. It is nevertheless possible to get a sense of this period room status, meanings and functions through a combined examination of primary sources and contemporary theories regarding the museum’s mechanisms. The South Kensington Museum handbook informs us on the context in which the room was shown, while the press coverage, both written and illustrated, provides a glimpse of the importance it had at the time of its acquisition. From the perspective of museum’s theories, given the period rooms’ material and intellectual complexity, their meanings must be examined in the light of their own history and context of display, and generalizations must be avoided. Yet, as demonstrated with the Sérilly room, they can arguably contribute to the construction of the visitors’ identity in a way that differs from any other object displayed in a museum thanks to the combination of their unique immersive form, their evocative power and their domestic referent, which makes them easily legible and prone to trigger imagination even still today. Despite its specificity, this study of the ways in which the making of the Sérilly room impacted the significations of its components in a manner that supported the museum’s moralizing ambitions opens new avenues to think about the epistemological issues embedded in the choice of exhibiting artefacts as a period room. If you have any comments to make in relation to this article, please go to the journal website on http://jdh.oxfordjournals.org and access this article. There is a facility on the site for sending e-mail responses to the editorial board and other readers. Marie-Ève Marchand is an FRQSC postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Art History at Concordia University and a sessional lecturer at Université de Montréal where she teaches in Art History and in the Masters in museology programme. Her research focuses on the so-called decorative arts, especially their materiality and the epistemological issues arising from their collecting and display in both museums and domestic interiors. Her recent publications include articles in RACAR (2014), Esse: Art + Opinions (2015), Espace: Art actuel (2015), and Musées (2017), as well as book chapters in edited volume with Bononia University Press (2016) and Bloomsbury (forthcoming). Notes 1 The presence of a narrow, slightly diagonal breach in the wall adjoining the house and boudoir suggests that there might also have been a secret access to the room. However, this passage is perhaps a later addition as this plan dates from 1850. 2 Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Woodwork, The Panelled Rooms: The Boudoir of Madame de Sérilly, vol. III (London: Board of Education, 1925), 12. 3 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum (London: Spottiswood & Co., 1870), 19. 4 ‘The Boudoir in the South Kensington Museum’, The Architect 2 (1869): 280; ‘South Kensington Museum’, Journal of the Society of Arts (1869): 127. In 1870, it was ‘partly furnished with suitable contemporary objects, selected chiefly from loan contributions of A. Barker, Esq.’ A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., p. 19. 5 My position contradicts John Harris’s assertion that the Sérilly room was not one of the first museum period rooms because ‘at first, it was not displayed with an ensemble of furniture’. John Harris, Moving Rooms: The Trade in Architectural Salvages (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007), 125–126. 6 See, among others, Edward P. Alexander, ‘Artistic and Historical Period Rooms’, Curator: The Museum Journal 7 (1964): 263–281; Pascal Griener, ‘Florence à Manhattan. La Period Room, des magasins européens aux gratte-ciels américains (1890–1939)’, Studiolo 8 (2010): 123–131; Harris, op. cit.; Bruno Pons, Grands décors français: 1650–1800. Reconstitués en Angleterre, aux États-Unis, en Amérique du Sud et en France (Dijon: Éditions Faton, 1995). 7 Dianne H. Pilgrim, ‘Inherited from the Past: The American Period Room’, American Art Journal 10 (1978), 5–6; Harris, op. cit., pp. 124, 129. 8 Victoria and Albert Museum, The Panelled Rooms, op. cit.; Margaret English and Lisa Scalisi, ‘The Sérilly Cabinet. Anne-Marie de Sérilly and the Story of the “Boudoir”’, The V & A Album 4 (1985): 197–202. 9 Henry Cole, First Report of the Department of Practical Art (London: George E. Eyre & William Spottiswoode, 1853), 30. 10 Various symposiums addressing period rooms have been held over the past few years, including at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (2012 and 2016), The Bowes Museum (2014) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008). Recent books on the topic include Sandra Costa, Dominique Poulot and Mercedes Volet, eds, The Period rooms: allestimenti storici tra arte, collezionismo e museologica (Bologna: Bononia University Press, 2016); Harris, op. cit.; Penny Sparke, Brenda Martin and Trevor Keeble, eds, The Modern Period Room. The Construction of the Exhibited Interior 1870–1950 (London and New York: Routledge, 2006). Numerous articles and doctoral dissertations have also been produced. 11 Victoria and Albert Museum, The Panelled Rooms, op. cit., p. 9. 12 See, for instance, Karen Wonders, ‘The Illusionary Art of Background Painting in Habitat Dioramas’, Curator: The Museum Journal 33 (1990): 92; Raymond Montpetit, ‘Une logique d’exposition populaire: les images de la muséographie analogique’, Publics et Musées 9 (1996): 61–63. 13 Most of these pursuits were scripted, and the natives performing (who were sometimes professional actors) were likely to be exploited financially, culturally and intellectually. Annie E. Coombes, ‘Museums and the Formation of National and Cultural Identities’, Oxford Art Journal 11 (1988): 59; James Clifford, Routes. Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 197–204. 14 Coombes, op. cit., p. 59. 15 See, for instance, Arthur Hazelius’s open-air ethnographic park Skansen opened in 1891. Edward P. Alexander, Museum Masters: Their Museum and their Influence (Nashville: The American Association for State and Local History, 1983), 239–275. 16 While this is especially true with regard to permanent displays, mannequins are sometimes used as part of temporary exhibits as in the case of Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century shown in the period rooms of the Wrightsman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2004. 17 Karen Wonders, ‘Exhibiting Fauna—From Spectacle to Habitat Group’, Curator: The Museum Journal 32 (1989): 135. 18 Ibid. 19 See Gottfried Semper, The Ideal Museum. Practical Art in Metals and Hard Materials (Vienna: Schlebrügge, 2007 [1852]); Michael Conforti, ‘Le musée des arts appliqués’, in Histoire de l’histoire de l’art: tome 2, ed. Édouard Pommier (Paris: Louvre, Klincksieck, 1995–1997), 337–338; Harry Francis Mallgrave, Gottfried Semper: Architect of the Nineteenth Century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996), 310. 20 A Catalogue of the Museum of Ornamental Art at Marlborough House (London: Chapman and Hall, 1853), 5, printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode. 21 For a discussion on the ‘correct principles in decoration’ as envisaged by the South Kensington Museum, see A Catalogue of the Museum of Ornamental Art at Marlborough House, op. cit., pp. 5–8, 13–22. See also Christopher Frayling, Henry Cole and the Chamber of Horrors. The Curious Origins of the Victoria and Albert Museum (London: V&A Publishing, 2010); Marie-Ève Marchand, ‘L’impossible “chambre des horreurs” du Museum of Ornamental Art: une archéologie du design criminel’, RACAR: Revue d’art canadienne/Canadian Art Review 39 (2014): 40–51. 22 Red Spider, ‘Artistic Homes’, Myra’s Journal of Dress and Fashion 14 (1888): 676. 23 M. B. W., ‘A Boudoir of the Eighteenth Century’, The Art Amateur 6 (1882): 63–64. 24 Adriaan De Jong and Matte Skougaard, ‘Les intérieurs de Hindeloopen et d’Amager: deux exemples d’un phénomène muséographique’, Publics et Musées 9 (1996): 24. 25 M. B. W., op. cit., p. 63. It should nevertheless be noted that the components of a museum period room were not always more authentic than those used in Exhibitions and Fairs and that the latter were not inescapably fakes. For instance, a number of period rooms have been de-accessioned after discovering that the panelling was an assemblage of original fragments and later additions. See Harris, op. cit., pp. 151, 166, 179. 26 See, among others, Spencer R. Crew and James E. Sims, ‘Locating Authenticity: Fragments of a Dialogue’, in Exhibiting Cultures. The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 159–175. 27 This information was published in A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., p. 19. It was repeated in various journal articles over the ensuing years including Gulielmus, ‘A Visit to the South Kensington Museum’, The Friendly Companion IV (1878): 80; M. B. W., op. cit., p. 63; Spider, op. cit., p. 676. 28 In addition to these misattributions, as noted by English and Scalisi, the alcove, which should have faced the entry door, was misplaced; the ceiling was rotated 90°, introducing discrepancies in the room’s iconographic programme; and some boiserie panels were inverted. Op. cit., p. 199. 29 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., 17, 19; ‘South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 127; M. B. W., op. cit., p. 64; ‘The Boudoir in the South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 280. 30 Frédéric Elsig, Charlotte Guichard, Peter Parshall, Philippe Sénéchal and Philippe Bordes, ‘Le connoisseurship et ses révisions méthodologiques’, Perspective 3 (2009): 345. 31 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., p. 13; ‘South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 127. It must be noted that, in his 1857 lecture On the Museum of Art, the superintendent of the art collection John Charles Robinson listed ‘the complete carved oak panelling of a room, from an ancient house at Exeter’ among the museum acquisitions. There seems to be no documentation as to whether these panels were intended to be exhibited as a period room or not. John Charles Robinson, Introductory Addresses on the Science and Art Department and the South Kensington Museum, no 5: On The Museum of Art, delivered 14 December 1857 (London: Chapman and Hall, 1858), 17. See also Harris, op. cit., pp. 124–125. 32 ‘South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 127. 33 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., p. 13; ‘South Kensington Museum’, op. cit., p. 127. 34 A Guide to the South Kensington Museum, op. cit., ‘Table of contents’, 17. 35 As noted by John Harris, an empty room is not a period room. op. cit., pp. x, 125–127. 36 Emphasis added. ‘South Kensington Museum’, The Illustrated London News, 25 November 1871, p. 497. 37 M. B. W., op. cit., p. 63. 38 It should nevertheless be noted that when the South Kensington opened as the Museum of Ornamental Art at Marlborough House in 1852, everyone who paid the sixpence admission fee to access the galleries on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays could ‘upon payment of a further fee of sixpence and washing his hands before handling the specimen, may demand to have any article removed from its case for minute inspection’. H. Cole, op. cit., p. 33. 39 See, for instance, her description of an ideal Louis XVI boudoir furnished with porcelain. H. R. Haweis, The Art of Decoration (London: Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly, 1881), 159–165. 40 Histoire de Marie-Antoinette written by the Goncourt brothers in 1858 and Charles Duke Younge’s The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France (1876) are two examples. Biographies also took the form of plays, such as Palgrave Simpson’s Marie Antoinette, which was performed in 1869 at the Princess’s Theatre in London. 41 Terry Castle, ‘Marie-Antoinette Obsession’, in Marie-Antoinette. Writings on the Body of a Queen, ed. Dena Goodman (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 213. 42 See, among others, Ed Lilley, ‘The Name of the Boudoir’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 53 (1994): 193–198; Michel Delon, L’invention du boudoir (Cardeilhan: Zulma, 1999). 43 This is, for instance, what happened to Mélite, a fictional character in Jean-François de Bastide’s novel La petite Maison (1753). Invited by the Marquis de Trémicourt to visit his ‘little house’, Mélite was challenged to resist the Marquis’s advances. The wager was lost (or won depending on the point of view) in the second boudoir where Mélite finally succumbed to the room’s beauty and erotic appeal more than to that of the Marquis. 44 Delon, op. cit., p. 17. 45 Ibid., p. 18. 46 The stereotype of the period room as a time capsule has been a commonplace at least since the first half of the twentieth century and continues today. See, for instance, Kristina Wilson, ‘Style and Lifestyle in the Machine Age—The Modernist Period Rooms of the “Architect and the Visual Arts”’, Visual Resources 21 (2005): 255–256. 47 A Guide to the South Kensongton Museum, op. cit., p. 17. 48 Juliet Kinchin, ‘Interiors: Nineteenth-Century Essays on the “Masculine” and the “Feminine” Room’, in The Gendered Object, ed. Pat Kirkham (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), 16. 49 Anne Troutman, ‘The Modernist Boudoir and the Erotics of Space’, in Negotiating Domesticity: Spatial Productions of Gender in Modern Architecture, ed. Hilde Heynen and Gülsüm Baydar (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), 304. 50 Stefan Muthesius, The Poetic Home. Designing the 19th-Century Domestic Interior (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2009), 156–157. 51 Lady Barker, The Bedroom and Boudoir (London: Macmillan and Co, 1878), 33, 84. For a more in-depth discussion of the meanings of the boudoir according to Barker, see Mark Taylor and Julieanna Preston, ‘Interior Bowers: Dormant Wilderness in Nineteenth Century Boudoir’, IDEA Journal (2005): 75–83. 52 Coombes, op. cit., p. 65. 53 Deborah Cohen, Household Gods: The British and Their Possessions (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 86. 54 Ibid., p. 127. 55 Ibid., p. x. 56 Ibid., p. 13. 57 Emphasis added. Penny Sparke, ‘The “Ideal” and the “Real” in Elsie de Wolfe’s “The House in Good Taste” of 1913’, Journal of Design History 16 (2003), 69. 58 H. Cole, op. cit., p. 2; Anthony Burton, ‘The Uses of the South Kensington Art Collections’, Journal of the History of Collection 14 (2002): 81; Rafael Cardoso Denis, ‘Teaching by Example: Education and the Formation of South Kensington’s Museums’, in A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. Malcom Baker and Brenda Richardson (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997), 107–116. 59 Chantal Georgel, ‘Le musée, lieu d’enseignement, d’instruction et d’édification’, in La jeunesse des musées. Les musées de France au XIXe siècle, ed. Chantal Georgel (Paris: Éditions de la réunion des musées nationaux, 1994), 66. 60 Henry Cole, the first director of the South Kensington Museum, even believed that his institution would serve as an alternative to the ‘gin palace’. Richard Dunn and Anthony Burton, ‘The Victoria and Albert Museum: An Illustrated Chronology’, in A Grand Design: The History of the Victoria and Albert Museum, op. cit. p. 57. 61 Regarding the threatening power of non-procreative or purely pleasure-driven sexual practices, see George L. Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality. Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in Modern Europe (New York: Howard Fertig, 1985), 26–27, 54. 62 Francis O’Gorman and Katherine Turner, eds, The Victorians and the Eighteenth Century: Reassessing the Tradition (Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2004), 3. 63 It is only as a result of a restoration programme carried out in the 1980s that the holes intended to hold fittings for the curtains that would have covered the window and door were discovered. English and Scalisi, op. cit., p. 202. 64 Florence Hartley, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness. A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society (Boston: G. W. Cottrell Publisher, 1860), 188. 65 Michel Foucault, ‘Le jeu de Michel Foucault’, 1977 in Dits et Écrits, 1954–1988, ed. Daniel Defert and François Ewald (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), 298–329. Regarding the construction of the subject within the museum space, see Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum. History, Theory, Politics (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 59–88. 66 Mosse, op. cit., p. 1. 67 Ibid., p. 182. 68 Ibid., p. 2. It should be noted that the museum was a powerful tool to bring order in society (see, for instance, Bennett, op. cit.) and that, thanks to their Universalist ambitions, many were meant to be useful for every classes of society although their museographic choices, opening hours and condition of admission sometimes seemed to be in contradiction with this goal. © The Author(s) [2018]. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Design History Society. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Journal of Design HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Feb 26, 2018

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