Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Human Comedy (1852)

Jean-Louis Hamon: The Human Comedy

[A] work by Hamon, The Human Comedy, was purchased by the government; first shown in 1851 and exhibited again at the 1855 World’s Fair, it enjoyed a popular success despite its somewhat puzzling subject. Hamon set his scene in the mythical Elysian Fields, the realm of the blessed heroes of the past, and invited his Salon audience to join the populace in contemplation of a diverting spectacle where “Love is hanged, Bacchus is thrashed, and Minerva, who eternally settles everyone’s accounts, provides plenty of amusement for the curious passers-by in the ideal abode…” The picture’s focus is an outdoor puppet show entitled Théâtre Guignol, the name of a real marionette show located at the Champs-Elysées, which inspired Hamon’s pun on the Elysian Fields. Like the Italian comedy, the outdoor entertainment was often referred to as a “petite comédie humaine,” where a few primal characters summed up the whole of human experience. [Albert Boime, Art and the Age of Civil Struggle, 1848-1871, University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 610]

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