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Exhibition from 15 June to 29 September 2019
Royal Monastery of Brou - Bourg-en-Bresse
A subject that has often attracted considerable political and social attention in recent years, the veil, an accessory worn by women and sometimes men, dates back to classical antiquity. In the lay world it symbolises mourning or modesty, but also flirtatiousness and even seduction. In religion it has different uses and meanings, in all the great monotheistic and polytheistic traditions. It is ever present, in art and literature, in myths and in the street. The Royal Monastery of Brou is dedicating this exhibition to the subject of the veil in order to bring contemporary debates into perspective and to restore some of its historical truth through its representation in art.
The exhibition unveils around one hundred works from all eras (from antiquity to the modern day) and of all types (paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, prints, photographs, artistic and documentary video installations, etc.) portraying secular and religious veils by theme. The works have been divided into four themes.
Sacred or allegoric veils
Next come sacred or allegoric veils, whether denominational (worn by clergymen or saints), ritual (communion, marriage, mourning, other religious ceremonies) or symbolic (representing the concealed or the law, for example). The veil worn by the vestal virgins painted in 1827 by Jean Raoux (Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts), as well as those of our communicants, or the veil of the bride captured by the photographed Guy Le Querrec (Magnum photos). But also the veil of the Virgin Marys sculpted in the 15th century or that of catholic nuns, like Saint Catherine of Siena by Cristofano Allori (Amiens, musée de Picardie). It becomes allegoric in the sculpted medallion The Silence by Auguste Préault (musée du Louvre) and the statuette The Secret by Pierre-Félix Fix-Masseau (Musée d’Orsay). The donning of a veil is often more circumstantial for men: Jews wearing a tallit during prayer at the synagogue, painted by André Sureda (Autun, musée Rolin) or weeping at a gravestone in Burgundy (Lyon, musée des Beaux-Arts).
Finally, in the form of an epilogue, the last section will look at the parallel notion of unveiling, whether voluntary or endured, ritual, daily or seductive. Orientalist artists, like the painter Léopold de Moulignon (Rochefort, musée d’Art et d’Histoire), or photographers like Rudolf Lehnert and Ernst Landrock (private collection) pander to colonial fantasy by exhibiting women with their faces hidden behind a veil but their bodies on display. In contrast, art also showcases women’s hair, ostensibly accentuated, as in the 17th century Persian miniature (Lyon, musée des Beaux-Arts) and the dual faces of the portraits photographed by Iranian artist Lida Ghodsi. The exhibition comes to a close with the appearance of Truth in the form of a nude and unveiled woman depicted by the painter Jean-Jacques Henner (Paris, musée national Jean-Jacques Henner) and the long-haired woman by Man Ray (Chalon-sur-Saône, musée Nicéphore Niépce). (Image: Lida Ghodsi, Intérieur, extérieur Téhéran, 1970 photographie sur Dibond, Lyon, musée des Confluences)
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