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Call for papers: “Polysemic studies and readings around a painting: France bringing faith to the Wendat of New France”

Published on March 26, 2021

The international conference will occur on October 29, 2021 at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM)

This event is bilingual. Presentations can be in either French or English.

Proposals for papers (400 words), in French or English, should be accompanied by a brief biography (150 words) and sent before May 31, 2021 to ouellet.pierre-olivier@uqam.ca  and longtin.marianne.2@courrier.uqam.ca

“Polysemic studies and readings around a painting: France bringing faith to the Wendat of New France”

As part of the activities of the Laboratoire numérique des études en histoire de l'art du Québec (UQÀM, Canada), this conference aims to highlight the multiple interpretations and possible discourses that can be drawn from a painting from the collections of the Ursulines (managed by the Pôle culturel du Monastère des Ursulines), now on display at Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ, Canada), named France bringing Faith to the Wendat of New France (fig. 1). Painted in France around 1666, this little known artwork was often reproduced in publications devoted to the arts during the French colonial period in North America. The painting has often been interpreted as an allegory of France, in the guise of Anne of Austria (1601-1666) offering a painting to a Wendat individual (Gagnon Lacroix 1983; Trudel 1984; Deslandres 2003; Lacroix 2012). Taking into account the French colonial reality of the 17th century, as well as the Catholic Counter-Reformation movement, it is often thought that the painting reflected the missionary practices of the Jesuits among the First Nations populations in North America. The painting’s mise en abyme would then symbolize the conversion strategies of this period, drawing on the idea of making the invisible spiritual realities visible through art. As indicated in a passage from the Journal des Jésuites dated June 20, 1666 and highlighted in 1983 by art historians François-Marc Gagnon (1935-2019) and Laurier Lacroix, the artwork would also have a historical purpose, since it was a question of making a “painting that marks (how the Wendat) embraced the faith”. Thus, the entire composition and mechanics of the artistic production would attempt to capture and synthesize both the significations and practices of religious conversion through images, as practiced by the Catholic missionaries during their first contacts with Indigenous peoples (Gagnon 1975).

Although France bringing Faith to the Wendat of New France has been the subject of research and of writings that advanced strong arguments before today, the artwork still accommodates various approaches, questions and readings to shed new light on its multiple components, whether material, formal, iconographic or historical. In fact, as a cultural product that can be subjected to many different views, this 17th century painting still presents, in our opinion, a part of mystery and an under-exploited interpretative potential. For example, in 1997, art historian Joseph Monteyne examined the context in which the painting was produced, taking into account the political and religious changes in the colony at the time of King Louis XIV's takeover of New France. More recently, in 2020, an article by art historian Pierre-Olivier Ouellet highlighted its multiple diplomatic aspects related to both the political context and its iconography. Moreover, various research and writing exercises conducted with groups of undergraduate art history students at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM), led by the art historian, revealed a multiplicity of equally promising avenues and discourses, touching on questions related to notions of power (religious, royal, economic, colonial, decolonial, etc.), spirituality (mainly Catholic and Indigenous) and space (colonial territory, the Motherland, the represented locations, the composition symbolism, the painting’s mise en abyme, etc.).

With these premises pointing to the polysemous nature of the painting France bringing Faith to the Wendat of New France, it now seems essential to us to feature this painting again in the context of a bilingual (French and English) international conference. The studies and exchanges around the artwork will allow for the implementation of a postmodern exercise focusing on the multiplicity of discourses around the same object, an object which is not offered as the result of the practice of an artist already praised by the art history discipline nor as the subject of strong media attention. Far from these detached aspects of "great" painting, this artistic work presents itself rather as an opportunity to dive into curiosity, questioning and hypotheses, at the very heart of our various perceptions, interests and knowledge.

This painting is therefore the meeting point of this event, which will allow us to investigate different avenues of research, including but not limited to:

Literary and visual representations of the New World;

Decolonial criticism in light of the nature of representation;

The iconography and representational practices of royal power;

The historiography of Native-Western relations;

The museum display, discourse of the exhibition and mediation of the artwork according to its places of hanging (historical and current);

The mise en abyme and its symbolism; and

Religious proselytism in the 17th century.

Proposals for papers (400 words), in French or English, should be accompanied by a brief biography (150 words) and sent before May 31 to: ouellet.pierre-olivier@uqam.ca and longtin.marianne.2@courrier.uqam.ca

Following the conference, speakers will be invited to submit their papers for publication.

 Organizing Committee:

Pierre-Olivier Ouellet (professeur associé, Université du Québec à Montréal)
Marianne Longtin (candidate à la maîtrise, Université du Québec à Montréal)
Dominic Hardy (professeur, Université du Québec à Montréal)

Scientific Committee:

Gauvin Alexander Bailey (Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada)
Yann Lignereux (Université de Nantes, Nantes, France)
Marianne Longtin (Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada)
Joseph Monteyne (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Pierre-Olivier Ouellet (Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada)

 

 

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