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Video transcript

we're in the Louvre in Paris and we're looking at one of the great 18th century French paintings pilgrimage to Cythera by vato so here we are looking at a rokoko painting and the main subjects of Rococo paintings were the lifestyle of the aristocracy well we certainly have that tsipras an island in Greece it was believed perhaps to be the birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite so Center is an island that was mythically associated with the goddess of love well look the sculpture of her has Cupid's bow tied around it and we have a vine of roses growing up it you can't miss the connotations of love here no and there's a little cupid sitting below that he's got its quiver on the ground as though he doesn't really need to do anything here because love is all around him already and he seems to be tugging ever so gently on the skirt of the young woman who sits there so coyly as though he's urging her to fall in love and of course her male companion seems to be doing the same thing but she looks down rather demure early that's a bit of a conspiracy isn't it I'm not sure that she stands a chance as you follow the couples as they head down the bank toward the boat that is either going to take them away from Satara or to sit there should say that art historians are have been arguing this point for quite some time you can see that the couples get closer and closer toward a state of intimacy well that's right when you look at the figures that are down below in the middle of the painting you see a woman who holds the man's arm of her own volition she doesn't need to be coaxed any longer I see this progression of figures almost as a kind of dance look at the way the hands are together as it would be in a formal dance of the 18th century you can see the prow of the ship with a beautifully carved nude woman and above that what is presumably in cupid there is red silk cloth that drapes the entire prow we see Garland's of flowers and then you can see the oarsmen of the boat there ready to take these couples either to or from Zathura I tend to think that they're going to satura because photo has made an effort to show us a destination we see if dark outline and presumably that is the island of Cicero and you can see a little protein that lead our I back into that distance with that torch right above that Island in the distance on the other hand there is that firm that sculpture of Aphrodite that suggests that this island that we're seeing now is itself satura the island of love and that the figures are nostalgic ly sadly getting ready to leave that's entirely possible but I think it's also possible that it's both that this is a painting that is about ambiguity and should not be read as a literal narrative well I think you're right love here is represented as a dance where couples take various positions in relationship to another sometimes moving in opposing directions sometimes moving together sometimes one pulls another toward them we know that Votto was influenced by opera and by plays so maybe we're seeing some aspect of that here it's also important to remember that this was painted to be the reception piece for Votto to be included in the Royal Academy of Art and its intended audience was an aristocratic one one that was used to formal dance this is a new type of painting called the fete Galan an outdoor entertainment for the aristocracy and interestingly Votto was a bit late getting this to the Academy and that was because of private commissions that intervened but when it was accepted there was no category for the fete Galland but the painting was seen as so important that they created a new category so that it could be accepted and this was rather revolutionary especially considering that the academy was strongly divided between two camps the followers of the artist Rubens and the followers of the French artists Poussin that is a division between artists who adhere to a philosophy that says line is most important in painting that clear outlines and internal modeling and a sense of finish where you don't see the brushwork is most important versus the Rubin East's the followers of Rubens who believe that color was most important and it's so clear when you look at the luscious colors here that Votto was an adherent to the Rubin East ideas there's no question that the Rubin EES carried the day at this point absolute lutely and here you can see that the outlines are soft figures merge a little bit into the background we have lovely passages where we can see the hand of the artist this is something that is very typical of Baroque art with Rubens and also here in rock art with fat toe so this is a period that we call the Rococo and it is the ancien régime that is it is the last century that the nobility will rule friends the nobility the royal family are less than a century away from the French Revolution which will of course annihilate this way of life literally and usher in what we in many ways consider the modern world and so here we see an image of the aristocracy at play of this fantasy of the world that they had created for themselves but here within a fantastical setting you