All-day seminar with French-inspired lunch and French wine, Saturday, November 3, 2018, 10 a.m.–4 p.m
Fortresses and Fantasies: The Châteaux of the Loire Valley
From forbidding fortresses to charming châteaux and castles, the splendid structures of the Loire Valley reflect lives of opulence and intrigue. Medieval fortresses built for defense with moats and towers gradually gave way to spectacular Renaissance pleasure palaces. Sumptuous elegance, not comfort, was the primary design principle of the châteaux. Ornamented with paintings and sculptures and surrounded by reflecting pools and perfectly manicured gardens, they make the mansions of today’s rich and famous seem austere by comparison.
Art historian Janetta Rebold Benton showcases these romantic and historic places, and sets them in the context of French history. Appropriately, the afternoon includes a break to enjoy a glass of French wine.
10–11 a.m. The Days of Knights: Step into the medieval and Renaissance eras at the Château of Saumr, its depiction featured in the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry; Sully-sur-Loire, a prison for Joan of Arc; Langeais, a medieval stronghold that became a Renaissance châteaux; and Châteaudun, built over three centuries.
11:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Country Life and Court Life: Visit little rural La Devinière, home of Rabelais; the Clos-Lucé, Leonardo da Vinci’s last home; Azay-le-Rideau, one of the earliest French Renaissance palaces, built on an island in the Indre River; and the Château Royal de Blois, a unique example of the development of French architecture from the 13th through the 17th centuries.
12:30–1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30–2:45 p.m. Luxury and Liaisons: The high life along the Loire: Château de Chambord, with a miniature village on its roof, is the largest castle in the valley. Chenonceau, the “château of the ladies,” was Henry II’s gift to his mistress Diane de Poitiers; when Henry died, his wife Catherine de Medici forced her to switch palaces and move to Chaumont.
3:15–4 p.m. Renaissance Gardens: Examine plantings, plans, and meaning at Chenonceau, Villandry, and other sumptuous gardens in the Loire Valley.
Information to be available at: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/Tickets/Reserve.aspx?
All-day seminar, with Parisian-inspired Lunch, Saturday, September 23, 2017.
Why, Oh Why, Do We Love Paris?: The Timeless Charm of the City of Light
It’s hard to identify the je ne sais quoi that gives Paris its powerful appeal. What has set it apart over the centuries? Does it come from the great Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame or the delicate Sainte-Chapelle, alight with stunning stained glass windows? Perhaps it’s the art nouveau entrances that frame the Paris Metro and the Pompidou Centre. Perhaps it’s the city’s propensity to transform itself: For example, the Louvre—a medieval fortress, then royal residence, then world-class museum—most recently remade itself with I.M. Pei’s controversial pyramid-shaped entrance.
1. Medieval and Renaissance Paris: Learn how Roman Lutetia became Paris. It was among Europe’s largest cities until its population was decimated by bubonic plague and ravaged by the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). The University of Paris was founded ca. 1150, making it one of Europe’s oldest. The Gothic style of art and architecture was developed here, complemented by stained glass windows. The original Louvre was built as a fortress to protect the royal family.
2. Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassicism: During the reign of Louis XIII (1610-43), Paris solidified its reputation as Europe’s cultural capital. Luxurious Luxembourg Palace and gardens were created, along with the Place de La Concorde, Les Invalides, and Place Vendome. Parisian artists included Charles Le Brun, Rococo favorite Honoré Fragonard, and Jacques-Louis David, who painted scenes of the French Revolution. Political and cultural power, which had been moved to Versailles by Louis XIV, was returned to Paris as the revolution began. The Emperor Napoleon commissions the Arc de Triomphe in 1806.
Lunch: A Parisian-inspired gourmet box lunch is provided.
3. Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, and Post-Impressionism: Emperor Napoleon III chose Georges-Eugene Haussmann in 1853 to carry out a massive modernization program of boulevards, parks, and public works in Paris, and a spectacular transformation began. Narrow medieval streets gave way to broad boulevards lined with monumental buildings such as the grand Baroque Revival opera house Palais Garnier (where Edgar Degas’s painted ballerinas might have danced). Engineer Gustave Eiffel, built the tower that became France’s enduring symbol. Montmartre became the artists’ mecca; the Moulin Rouge’s risqué nightlife inspired paintings by Toulouse Lautrec. Cartoonist Honoré Daumier depicted daily life while Monet, Renoir, and other impressionist painters moved outdoors for inspiration.
Brief Interlude: Break for a glass of wine and a Parisian-inspired snack.
4. The 20th Century: Art nouveau entrances adorn the Paris Metro. Famous artists made Paris home, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Georges Rouault, Constantin Brancusi, Fernand Leger, Marcel Duchamp, Alberto Giacometti, Victor Vasarely. The Pompidou Centre—a cultural center built inside out—opened in 1977 and broke the rules of architectural design. Frank Gehry's futuristic translucent Foundation Louis Vuitton opened in 2014.
As the Smithsonian Expert on the following trips, I present several formal lectures on each, as well as many informal talks.
1) Great European Journey, June 12-22, 2018. For information: http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/europe-train-cruise/itinerary/
2) London: One-Week Stay in England , July 5-13, 2018. For information: http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/london-stay/itinerary/
1. "Essence of London," July 12-20 2017. For information: http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/london-stay/expert/
2. "Saint Petersburg and the Baltics," August 15-28, 2017. For information: http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/stpetersburg-baltics/itinerary/
Institute for Medieval Studies, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM,
The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia,
Janetta Rebold Benton is the Distinguished Professor of Art History at Pace University, NY. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award as Visiting Professor at the graduate school of Art History, European University, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2012-13, and has received a second Fulbright as Visiting Professor at the graduate school of Art History, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China, 2018.
Dr. Benton presents subscription seminars at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. She presented subscription lecture series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, every season 1988-2011, and at the Schimmel Center for the Arts, NYC. She has also lectured at The Cloisters, NYC; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach; and elsewhere in America and abroad, including the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia and the Louvre, Paris, France. She is the Expert Lecturer on Smithsonian and Metropolitan Museum of Art trips throughout the world. A former resident of Paris, she taught courses in art history there as the Art Historian at the American Embassy.
She is currently working on her ninth book, ITALY'S RENAISSANCE: ART AND ARCHITECTURE 1280-1580 (Oxford University Press, NY, forthcoming). Her HANDBOOK FOR THE HUMANITIES (Robert DiYanni co-author, Pearson, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2014) is published in paperback and as an E-book. ARTS AND CULTURE: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HUMANITIES (Robert DiYanni co-author, Pearson/Prentice Hall, two volumes and combined volume, fourth edition, 2012) is also published in Chinese (2011). MATERIALS, METHODS, AND MASTERPIECES OF MEDIEVAL ART (Praeger Series on the Middle Ages, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA, 2009) is available in hardcover and as an E-book. MEDIEVAL MISCHIEF: WIT AND HUMOUR IN THE ART OF THE MIDDLE AGES (The History Press, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2004) examines an engaging aspect of medieval art. ART OF THE MIDDLE AGES (Thames & Hudson, London, 2002) is published in the acclaimed World of Art series. HOLY TERRORS: GARGOYLES ON MEDIEVAL BUILDINGS (Abbeville Press, NY, 1997) is also published in French as SAINTES TERREURS: LES GARGOUILLES DANS L'ARCHITECTURE MÉDIÉVALE (2000). Dr. Benton was the guest curator and catalog author for the 1995 exhibition MEDIEVAL MONSTERS: DRAGONS AND FANTASTIC CREATURES at the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY. Her book, THE MEDIEVAL MENAGERIE: ANIMALS IN THE ART OF THE MIDDLE AGES (Abbeville Press, NY, 1992), a Book of the Month Club selection, is also published in French as BESTIAIRE MÉDIÉVAL: LES ANIMAUX DANS L'ART DU MOYEN AGE (1992). Articles by Dr. Benton appear in IKON, Center for Iconographic Studies, University of Rijeka, Croatia, 2017; Proceedings of the International Conference, State Hermitage Museum Publishers, Saint Petersburg, 2017 and 2015; Encyclopedia of Humor Studies, Sage Reference, Los Angeles, CA, 2014; Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition catalog, SET IN STONE: THE FACE IN MEDIEVAL SCULPTURE, 2007; as well as in scholarly journals including Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, Poitiers, 1998; Arte Medievale, Rome, 1993; Artibus et Historiae, Vienna, 1989; and Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, 1985.
Dr. Benton was educated at Harvard University, Graduate School of Education, MDP diploma; earned her Ph.D. in Art History at Brown University; Master's degree in Art History at George Washington University; and Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at Cornell University.