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Staging and Collecting French History: John and Joséphine Bowes, c.1845-1885

MACNAUGHTON, LINDSAY,HANNAH (2021) Staging and Collecting French History: John and Joséphine Bowes, c.1845-1885. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 15 November 2024.


Staging and Collecting French History situates the founders of the Bowes Museum, John Bowes (1811-1885) and his wife Joséphine née Coffin-Chevallier (1824-1874), in their cosmopolitan contexts. It proposes that the Boweses need to be understood as Parisians, who were deeply engaged with the sociability, culture and transformations of the French capital. New discoveries in the French archives shed light on the founders’ biographies and draw attention to networks and people whose influence on the formation of their collections has not been previously acknowledged. The thesis examines other cross-Channel intermediaries – key figures who recur in the Bowes correspondence – as well as John Bowes’ controversial second wife, Alphonsine de Saint-Amand (1835-1908).
Parts of the collection that have never been exhibited or studied, including a large corpus of works on paper (newspaper cuttings, ephemera, prints), are mobilised as evidence. By reading disparate parts of the collection together, for example the fine and decorative arts, the library and archive, a deeper understanding emerges of the founders’ interests, in particular of their participation in the nineteenth-century preoccupation with the French past.
The Boweses’ historical sensibility and understanding of collecting as a way to mediate between the past and the future is a major theme. Their concern for the past took many forms: from their efforts to record changes in the fabric of Paris during their lifetimes, and their decision to acquire, renovate and repopulate the eighteenth-century Château de Louveciennes, to their fascination with the unfolding of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, and their hunt for vestiges from the ruins. The Boweses and their circle were profoundly shaped by prevailing cultural trends in mid-nineteenth century Paris; they cultivated an intensely personal relationship with historical personalities, as is evident in their collection of portraits.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:collecting; nineteenth-century Paris; Bowes Museum; revivalism; French history; domestic spaces
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Nov 2021 12:40

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