Vienna and Versailles: Legendary 17th Century Artistic Rivalry with Alexander McCargar

Vienna and Versailles: Legendary 17th Century Artistic Rivalry with Alexander McCargar


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This seminar examines the rival royal houses of France and Austria in the 17th century and how they competed through performances, festivals, and opera. This was the time of Louis XIV in France and Leopold I in Vienna. Nothing showed a kingdom’s wealth and prestige greater than the putting on of large festivities. These festivities involved all kinds of different artists and designers such as stage and costume designers, composers, singers, painters, architects, landscape architects, inventors, and engineers. 

Together we will examine specific artists in each discipline working in Versailles or Vienna for comparison. As we will see, many artists who designed and created festivals and performances were major artists and architects in their own right but have today been largely forgotten. During the 17th century, there was also less distinction between artistic boundaries. One day an architect might be working on the design of a cathedral and the next be designing costumes for mythical Roman gods in an opera. 

Led by an expert on historical performance, Alexander McCargar, this interactive seminar will introduce participants to the world of 17th-century festival culture in France and Austria. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the artistic rivalry between the houses of France and Austria. 

Alexander grew up in the greater Boston area and now lives in Vienna, Austria. He earned a MFA from Yale School of Drama and previously studied Architecture and Art History at Rhode Island School of Design. He has been awarded numerous grants to study the history of visual culture including a Fulbright Scholarship and a Beinecke Library Research Fellowship. He enjoys traveling and is always eager to learn new things.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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