The Age of Enlightenment

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The Enlightenment was a movement of thought and belief concerned with the connected ideas of God, reason, nature. Man claimed wide assent among the intellectuals in 17th and 18th century Europe. It attacked the fundamental beliefs and practices of European society (Schneider Adams 709.) Although the Enlightenment was varied in emphasis and interests, those who agreed with its tenets were satisfied that reason could beget useful knowledge, soaring to the domination of man's happiness through freedom. It would affect science, religion and social thinking of society. As a result of society's renewed sence of self awareness, religious art dwindled and art as social commentary flourished (Tacket.)

The age of Enlightenment began after the death of Louis the XIV, in the early 18th century, and ended roughly around the time of the coup d'etat of the Royal French Army in 1799, and the establishment of Napoléon Bonaparte as emperor (Villain.) The enclosed period may be divided into three stages: first the Regency, 1715-1723, followed by the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, 1723-1791, and finally the French Revolution 1789-1799 (Ministere Culture.)

In the domain of the arts, the aging Louis XIV hoped to see "childhood instilled in everything." Under the Regency, this trend of light-heartedness became more pronounced and was to flourish during the reign of Louis XV (Mautz.) The prevailing taste for elegance, comfort and beautiful possessions even infiltrated the ranks of the bourgeoisie. Works such as The Swing painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard shows light-hearted flirtation, an element intrinsic to the Rococo period (Schneider Adams 714.) Louis XV and Louis XVI were both inadequate leaders. Pressures from the French nobility and the church mounted, the monarchy tried to exert its influence through art. Royal portraits such as Louis XV and Marie Antoinette and her Children, painted by Rosalba Carriera...