Georgia Cowart, Professor of Music at Case Western Reserve University

“Performing/Transforming French Identity: Watteau, the Musical Theater, and the Satire of Absolutism”

Monday, March 4

4:30pm, Woolworth 106


Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) worked briefly as a set painter at the Paris Opera House around 1702-1703, and a number of his most well known paintings can be explained via a series of pieces performed in the musical theater of that time. These works encode a critique of the increasingly unpopular rule of the aging Louis XIV, while offering utopian visions of a new France. Drawing on the opera, ballet, and the musical comedy, the presentation will examine the imagery of The French Comedians, The Italian Comedians, Mezzetin, and other works as they respond to and participate in a theatrical game of masks involving satire, parody, and allusion.


Georgia J. Cowart has published three books and a number of articles on music, art, and cultural politics in early modern France. Her most recent book, The Triumph of Pleasure: Louis XIV and the Politics of Spectacle (University of Chicago Press, 2008), focuses on the shifting intersections of the arts, ideology, and aesthetics at the court of Louis XIV and in Paris c. 1650-1720.

As 2007-09 Sylvan C. and Pamela Coleman Memorial fund Fellow in Art History at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, she pursued a research project on Watteau and the musical theater. She also served as guest curator of the Met exhibition “Watteau, Music & Theater” (Fall 2009). The catalogue, for which she wrote the principal essay, was listed by the art critic of the Financial Times as one of the best art books of 2009.

She has been awarded a research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, January – December 2011, and a residential research fellowship at the Stanford Center for the Humanities, September 2011 – June 2012.

Prof. Cowart has also received a number of teaching and research awards, as well as fellowship support from the NEH (2001-02) and the American Council of Learned Societies (1997-98), and has presented her work and chaired panels at conferences, symposia, and international seminars in France, England, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, and the U. S. From 2002-07 she served as chair of the department of music at CWRU and co-director of the Joint Music Program between CWRU and the Cleveland Institute of Music. From 2006-09 she served as president of the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music, and she currently serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the American Musicological Society.


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