The Three Shades

In the Inferno Dante describes three shades, souls of his departed countrymen, who danced in a circle as they told of their woeful state in Hades. Rodin’s The Three Shades stood upon the uppermost lintel of The Gates of Hell, crowning the tympanum just above The Thinker. The downward thrust of their left arms and their heads conveys despair as they summon the viewer to gaze upon the tumultuous drama of sin and damnation unfolding below them on The Gates.
The most remarkable aspect of the work is that the three figures—even their pedestals—are identical, seen from the left, straight on, and from the right. The three figures radiate from a single point where their left arms converge, like spokes on a wheel. Dante wrote, “They all three made of themselves a wheel.” Rodin’s decision to use three identical figures may have its origins in Dante’s text. Canto III of the Inferno opens with the words Dante and Virgil read inscribed on the summit of the gateway leading to hell: ”Through me is the way into the doleful city / Through me is the way into eternal suffering / Through me is the way that runs among the lost.” Rodin’s triplicate figures echo the triplicate repetition in Dante’s lines. In the original plan of The Gates of Hell, the Shades pointed downward to an inscription—the one on Dante’s infernal gateway: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’entrate; “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Visual Art

  1. Neoclassicism was still popular
  2. Challenging calm & order with drama & emotion
  3. Romanticists felt confined by Neoclassicism
  4. Rebelled against established rules of painting in their search for more artistic freedom
  5. New Importance to:
    1. Sentimentality about the past
    2. Reflecting on the wonder of nature
    3. Using the imagination gained new importance
  6. New Subjects:
    1. Exotic, faraway places
    2. Primitive societies
    3. Medieval superstitions

John Constable (1776–1837)

  • English painter
  • Fascinated by nature (clouds)
    • Landscape painter
    • Wanted to capture look and feel of being outdoors
    • Drew in sketchbooks how changes in sunlight affect the way we see landscapes
    • Used his sketches to paint landscapes that showed the movement of clouds and rain
    • Painted the warm light and cool shadows as sunlight streamed across the landscape
    • He believed in painting landscapes en plein air, (outdoors in the natural light)
      • Working with oil paint outdoors was difficult
      • Watercolor not yet invented
  • Family:
    • Father was a miller just like Rembrandt’s father
    • Grew up in the countryside
    • Loved the beauty he saw in nature
    • Dabbled in painting as a child and young man
  • Art School (1799), father agreed to let him attend in London
    • Studied anatomy
    • Learned to copy works of masters
    • Was determined to develop his own style of painting and to focus on landscape painting
    • Wealthy landowners wanted paintings of their land; found (unsteady) work painting landscapes (not that popular)
  • Gained recognition in France before he did in England
  • Idealistic and inflexible:
    • painting landscapes how he wanted to
    • remaining true to nature
    • rather than painting in a profitable style
  • Increased size of landscapes (previously done only for historical scenes)
  • Most common subjects: landscapes personal to him, places he knew and grew up in as a child

The Hay Wain (1821)

  • Central feature: pair of horses pulling hay wain (farm cart) across a river.
  • Things to consider:
    1. What time of year is it?
    2. What’s going on in the weather?
    3. What do you think of his use of light?
    4. See the photo of Flatford Mill for more info.

The Cornfield (1826)

  • trees on either side in the foreground
  • road curving to an open field in the center distance
  • Light fills middle ground and background
  • Small tree centered in the middle ground, framed by two larger trees in the foreground
  • church off to the right in the background
  • Used atmospheric perspective to capture how we see landscapes in the distance, lightening and blurring objects in the background

Francisco Goya (1746–1828)

  • Spanish court painter
  • Would become recognized for paintings and prints of political events and fantastical images of dreams and superstitions.
  • Training: Saragossa and Madrid, then Rome
  • Returned to Spain, started his own workshop in Saragossa
  • 1774: married, moved to Madrid to design tapestries for royalty
  • Paintings turned into weaving patterns to make the tapestries
  • 1781: finally gained the recognition and position he wanted: painting portraits commissioned by royalty and aristocrats.
  • Appointed official court painter, created portraits of King Charles III and his successor, King Charles IV
  • The Family of Charles IV painting not necessarily flattering
    • King, queen dull and oafish
    • Royals were apparently not offended; they accepted the painting without complaint
  • Spent a lot of time with royals and aristocrats
  • Infatuated with the Duchess of Alba — painted several portraits of her, one that he kept for himself.

Serious Change in Style

  • Became seriously ill, almost died
  • Recovered, left totally deaf except for some sort of noise or ringing that bothered him the rest of his life
  • Work began a dramatic change:
    • Bizarre and frightening images began showing up in several series of prints

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters:

  • “Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”
  • Not just bleak and foreboding of doom
  • Demonstrate the artist’s sharp satirical wit, sense of humor

The Caprices

  • Dealt with vices and superstitions of people and the corruption in government and the Church.

The Disasters of War

  • Shows the horrors of war.
  • For the first time, war was portrayed as horrible and cruel rather than something noble or exciting.

With or Without Reason

  • The Third of May (1808)
    • portrayed Spanish revolt against Napoleon’s French invasion
    • shows horrific slaughter of innocent citizens rounded up by the French military for execution
    • used chiaroscuro (shades of light and dark) to highlight central figure on his knees with upraised arms in a crucifixion pose
    • bright white and yellow of his clothes stand out against the surrounding muted browns and blacks
    • rifles of the French soldiers standing in a diagonal line point toward their next victims and the central figure
    • bloody, dead bodies are piled around fearful, defenseless people soon awaiting their own horrible deaths
    • Most victims have faces, French soldiers do not (making them appear impersonal and cold-blooded)

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Drama & Theater

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

  1. Faust (Part 1, 1808; Part 2, 1831)
    1. Faustus legend
      1. Originated in Middle Ages
      2. Tragic tale
      3. Man sells soul to devil in exchange for 24 years of knowing, doing, having anything wished
    2. Very different from earlier versions
      1. Deal struck between Faust & Mephistopheles: devil only wins if he quenches Faust’s desire for ultimate knowledge and experience
    3. Highly problematic
      1. No limit on locations (many locations and supernatural events, impossible to resolve in 19th century)
      2. No limit on length
      3. No limit on number of scenes or lines

Other Famous Romantic Plays

  1. Victor Hugo
    1. Cromwell (1827) – tells story of Oliver Cromwell’s disputes in being offered the crown of England; 6920 verses long, was ever performed on stage
  2. Alexander Dumas
    1. Three Musketeers – story of d’Artagnan leaving home to travel to Paris and join the Musketeers
    2. The Count of Monte Cristo – adventure story; themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness; man wrongfully imprisoned, escapes from jail, acquires a fortune and sets about getting revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment
  3. Edmond Rostand
    1. Cyrano de Bergerac (1897) – nobleman of many talents, not attractive (large nose, no self-confidence); prevents him from expressing his feelings to the girl he’s fallen for
      1. Protagonist was real-life swordsman, poet, playwright who was contemporary (and perhaps schoolfellow) of Molière


  1. Melody and drama
  2. Employed background music to heighten the emotional impact of onstage action
  3. Lyrical music underscored love scenes
  4. Ominous chords created tension as suspense built to climactic moment
  5. Simplified characters and clearly defined moral issues (you were either good or evil)
  6. Typical plot:
    1. Series of exciting events often set in motion by evil opponent, placing hero and/or heroine in some perilous predicament
    2. Good triumphs over evil through perseverance, strength, wit, unflagging virtue, and often a dash of pure luck
    3. Stock characters developed:
      1. Threatened female
      2. Villain’s comic sidekick
      3. Promiscuous fallen woman who may repent but is still punished for her wicked past
  7. Most popular form of entertainment in 19th century
    1. Especially working class
    2. Used as an escape from reality
    3. Improved public transportation made theatre more accessible to masses
    4. New theatres started springing up all over Europe and America
  8. Common types of melodrama
    1. Domestic melodrama, equestrian, frontier melodramas with trained horses (influenced westerns)
    2. Crime/Detective (Sherlock Holmes plays)
    3. Nautical melodramas with swashbuckling pirates and exciting swordplay
    4. Canine melodramas (think Lassie)
    5. Disaster melodramas
  9. Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin – anti-slavery novel that helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War
    1. Most frequently adapted for the stage during 19th century
    2. Most well-known version is George Aiken’s 1852 adaptation
    3. 6 acts long, performed without any afterpiece (short, humorous one-act performance following the main play); contributed to the trend toward theaters that specialized in one primary entertainment form
    4. In 1852-53, UCT played for 325 consecutive performances; indicative of a new trend that continued from 1860s to 1880s as:
      1. runs of plays were extended
      2. Number of performances offered by theatre company in a single season began to decrease
  10. William Pratt: Ten Nights in a Bar-Room (1858) – small-town miller gives up his trade to open a tavern, the novel’s narrator is an infrequent visitor who over the course of several years traces the physical and moral decline of the proprietor, his family, and the town’s citizenry due to alcohol
  11. John Buckstone: Luke the Labourer (1826) also called The Lost Son
  12. Dion Boucicault: The Octoroon (1859) – residents of a Louisiana plantation called Terrebonne, and sparked debates about abolition and the role of theatre in politics

18th-19th Century Theaters

  1. Designed to hold as many people as possible
  2. Horseshoe-shaped auditorium
    1. Pit
    2. Box
    3. Gallery – stacked 4 or 5 stories high
  3. 2,500-4,000 spectators WHITNEY HALL ONLY HOLDS 2300
  4. Size made it necessary for actors to speak loudly and gesture broadly so audience could see and hear performance; considered laughably exaggerated and overblown (melodramatic) but was considered serious acting by 19th century audiences

Changes in Architecture

  1. PIT
    1. backless wooden benches replaced with individual seats
    2. Now called orchestra
    3. More desirable and expensive seating area
    4. Adelphi Theatre (London)
      1. boxes raised so that the pit could be extended to the side walls
      2. Tiers became more like balconies
      3. Cantilever balconies
    5. Booth Theater (New York City)
      1. Cited as first modern theater
      2. Features hydraulic elevators for lifting scenery from below the stage
      3. 76-foot fly loft above the stage, possible to raise drops without folding/rolling

Changes in Scenery, Costume, Lighting

  1. Increased interest in historical accuracy in set designs, costumes
  2. Charles Kemble: Shakespeare’s King John (1824); first to claim complete historical accuracy
  3. Chestnut Street Theater, Philadelphia: first gas stage-lighting system
    1. Gas gradually replaced oil
    2. Allowed for the adjusting of brightness or dimness
    3. Colored also by stretching translucent fabric in front of it
    4. Theater first called “The New Theatre”; burned down in 1816; Second Chestnut Street Theatre built 1818 in same spot, burned down 1856; Third Chestnut Street Theatre in 1862 about 7 blocks from the first, closed its doors in 1913 and was demolished shortly after

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“The Golden Age of Ballet”

  • Escape from reality for the common man of Europe
  • Women became stars of the ballet
  • Stories of: Fairy tales, romantic love, ghostly creatures falling in love with mortal men, dead maidens rising from the grave
  • Female spirits = white tutus, fairy wings, dancing on tiptoe (illusion of floating)
  • sur les points = on the tips of the toes

5 Superstars

  • Marie Taglioni  (1804-84), Swedish-Italian dancer, the most important ballerina of her era, who established the delicate, ethereal style of early romantic ballet. Born in Stockholm, she studied with her father, the Italian choreographer Filippo Taglioni (1777-1871), and made her debut in Vienna in 1822. In Paris she created the title role in her father’s La Sylphide (1832), inaugurating the romantic era in ballet. In this role she became one of the first women to dance en pointe (on the tips of the toes). At the same time she introduced the bell-like skirt and tight-fitting bodice that became the classical costume of 19th-century ballet.
  • Fanny Elssler (1810-84), Austrian dancer, one of the most celebrated names in ballet history. Born in Vienna, she was the daughter of a copyist and valet for the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn. Her debut at the Vienna Hoftheater in 1822 was the occasion for her first meeting with her lifelong rival, the Swedish-Italian ballerina Marie Taglioni. Throughout their careers the two dancers inspired heated arguments among critics; Taglioni was known as cool, ethereal, and sylphlike, and Elssler as earthy and voluptuous. Elssler’s lasting contribution was to introduce fiery Hungarian, Polish, and Spanish character dances to ballet.
  • Fanny Cerrito – real name Francesca Cerrito (1817-1909), Italian ballerina, one of the most brilliant, vivacious dancers and one of the few female choreographers of the 19th century. Born in Naples, she studied under the celebrated Italian teacher Carlo Blasis (1797-1878) and the noted French choreographers Jules Perrot and Arthur Saint-Léon (1821-70; her favorite partner and, from 1845 to 1851, her husband). She was famous for her role in Perrot’s Ondine (1843) and Pas de quatre (1845). Gemma (1854), using her own choreography, was another of her famous roles.
  • Lucile Grahn (1819-1907), Danish ballerina and choreographer, one of the four dancers honored in the famous ballet Pas de quatre (1845). Born in Copenhagen, she was trained under the Danish choreographer August Bournonville, who created his version (1836) of La Sylphide for her. She left Denmark in 1839 and danced internationally until 1856. Later ballet mistress of the Munich Opera, she choreographed ballets for many operas, including the German composer Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser.
  • Carlotta Grisi – real name Caronne Adele Josephine Marie Grisi (1819-99), Italian dancer, one of the leading romantic ballerinas. Born in Visinada, she joined La Scala opera ballet in Milan in 1829. Later she was the student and mistress of the famous French choreographer Jules Perrot. She was acclaimed for her creation of the title role inGiselle (1841), to a scenario written for her by the French poet Théophile Gautier. Other important roles were in Esmeralda (1844) and Pas de quatre (1845).
  • ballet blanc – white ballets; featured stage full of dancers in white tutus being lit from the floor, dancing on the tips of their toes so as to look “otherworldly” like ghosts
  • pointe shoes – developed out of the popularity of ballet blanc dancing; reinforced shoes that allowed dancers to stay up on their toes for longer periods of time
  • pointe dancing – dancing on the tips of your toes; pointe shoes developed out of the popularity of this type of dancing; skirts also became shorter in order to show more complicated steps

Carlo Blasis

  • Italian dancer, teacher, choreographer; developed Code of Terpsicore in 1830
  • Code of Terpsicore – book written by Carlo Blasis in 1830; described his method of education for the teaching of ballet; first used in the Imperial Academy of Dancing and Pantomime (Milan)

Other Important Developments

  • Audience began to feel that only female dancers possessed the grace and body structure to play the part of supernatural creatures on stage, perfect ballet was female-only
  • Theophile Gautier – dance critic; changed popular opinion to the point where males were looked upon as too big and ugly to dance ballet
  • Jules Janin (The Romantic Ballet in Paris, Janin quoted by Ivor Guest): “You know perhaps that we are hardly a supporter of what are called grand danseurs (male dancers). The grand danseur appears to us so sad and so heavy! …He responds to nothing, he represents nothing, he is nothing. Speak to us of a pretty dancing girl who displays the grace of her features and the elegance of her figure… But a man, frightful and ugly as you and I … that this fellow should dance as a woman does — impossible!”
  • Male roles played by females
  • Complete reversal of early court ballets
  • Men uninterested in ballet career
  • Result: no great male dancers
  • Female stars popularity began to decline, so did interest in ballet (Europe, late 1800s)

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Romanticism (1760–1870)

Artists revolted against Neoclassical order and reason. They returned to the beauty of nature. Freedom, emotion, sentimentality, and spontaneity were prized over logic and reason. They used their imagination to create works about exotic, patriotic, primitive, and supernatural subjects.
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