Celebrating Female Agency in the Arts - Christie's Education Symposium

Public Agency in Private Spaces: Politics, Painting, and Patronage in the Long Eighteenth Century

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Scholars across disciplines have long probed the relationship between politics and art in the public sphere in the long eighteenth century—the tumultuous, seminal historical period that saw the rise of the Enlightenment, modern systems of representative democracy, and, eventually, the Industrial Revolution. Yet, to date, scholarship of this period has largely failed to notice female artists and patrons, despite their omnipresence in public shows and frequent initiation of substantial commissions. Similarly, political history has overlooked non-royal women, despite their strong influence as the wives, mothers, and sisters of politicians. 

This interdisciplinary panel explores ways in which elite women wielded power through the active fusion of politics and art. Domestic and other private spaces often provided fertile ground for the cultivation of wide-ranging artistic production. In these spaces, women made decisions that both mirrored and diverged from the (often public) actions of their male contemporaries. They exercised their own, distinct agency to establish relationships with male and female artists and designers, to initiate commissions, and to oversee these projects, most of which were undeniably infused with cultural, social, national, and even international politics. 

These papers reveal women’s central role as patrons and artists at this key moment in time, when the nature of politics itself was changing—and, with it, the production of art. 

Laurel O. Peterson
Paris Spies-Gans

Lynda McLeod
Amy Lim
Maura Gleeson
Marina Kliger

Course dates

June 26 - 27, 2018

Christie's, New York
20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020

Laurel O. Peterson, Ph.D. Candidate,
Yale University

Laurel O. Peterson is a doctoral candidate in the History of Art at Yale University, from which she also holds her BA. She received her MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art. She specializes in British art of the long eighteenth century, with interests in intersections with continental European art and with the expanding British empire. Her dissertation, “The Decorated Interior: Artistic Production in the British Country House, 1688–1745,” explores the political and aesthetic significance of mural painting and limewood carving within Whig country houses. Research for this project has been supported by the Yale Center for British Art, the Paul Mellon Centre, the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation, and the Lewis Walpole Library.


Paris Spies-Gans, Ph.D. Candidate,
Princeton University

Paris Spies-Gans is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Princeton University with a focus on early modern and Revolutionary era Europe. She is particularly interested in print and visual culture, and ways in which they intersected and influenced gender, education, and religious dissent. She received her A.B. in History and Literature from Harvard University, and her M.A. in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her dissertation, provisionally titled “‘The Arts are All Her Own’: How Female Artists Navigated the Revolutionary era, ca. 1760-1830" argues that the Revolutionary era was a watershed moment for women artists in Britain and France. This project has been supported with grants from the Yale Center for British Art, the Lewis Walpole Library, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Paul Mellon Centre. In fall 2018, she will begin a postdoctoral fellowship as a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. 


Lynda McLeod
Christie's London

Paper Title: The Messrs. Christie, auctioneers, and their female patrons 1766-1831

Lynda McLeod, Associate Director, has been the Christie’s Archives Librarian since August 1998, based at the London King Street headquarters. She was formerly involved with the British Royal Collection Inventory (RCCIS) library cataloguing project based at the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. Her earlier career took her to the information worlds of advertising and management consultancy at JWT (J. Walter Thompson – part of the WPP Group) and Bain & Co. respectively.

Lynda prepares and delivers papers, articles and presentations on the subject of provenance research: how to carry out effective, timely research on works of art.

Her audience includes Christie’s staff, Christie’s Education Students, museum staff, art institutions, clients and art dealers. She curates displays and organizes exhibitions to highlight and promote the historical nature of Christie’s sales catalogues held in the paper-based Archive.

2016 was a very busy year for the Archives department as the company celebrated its 250th anniversary and Lynda’s knowledge of the history of the company was much in demand.



Amy Lim
University of Oxford and Tate

Paper Title: Heiress, courtier and art patron: Elizabeth Percy, duchess of Somerset

Amy Lim holds a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at the University of Oxford and Tate, researching ‘Art Patronage and Court Influence, 1660-1714’.  Her doctoral research centres on important aristocratic art patrons and the role of the court in leading, inspiring and facilitating their collecting and commissioning activities.  This will inform the development of a forthcoming exhibition of seventeenth and early eighteenth century British art at Tate Britain.  After an undergraduate degree in History at the University of Cambridge, and a career in marketing, Amy returned to academia in 2014, completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Historical studies and then a Master of Studies in Literature and Arts, both with Distinction, from the University of Oxford. 


Maura Gleeson, Ph.D.,
University of Florida

Paper Title: Public Agency in Private Spaces or Private Agency in Public Spaces? Women's Artistic Patronage during the First Empire

Maura Gleeson is a PhD Candidate in Art History at the University of Florida. Her primary area is eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French art, with a particular focus on the Napoleonic area. Her research topics of interest include female friendship, artist-patron relationships, and political networking. Ms. Gleeson explores these themes in her dissertation, which is tentatively titled "Between the Public and Private: The Artistic Networks, Friendships, and Self-Fashioning of Hortense de Beauharnais Bonaparte." 


Marina Kliger, Ph.D.,
Institute of Fine Arts (NYU)

Paper Title: History of Politics in the Salon: The Troubadour Style in the Duchesse de Raguse's Album Amicorum, 1817-1841

Marina Kliger is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and holds in MA in Art History from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her dissertation, entitled "Une Histoire Particulière: The Troubadour Style and Gendered Historical Consciousness in Early Nineteenth-Century France," examines the gender politics of French national history painting after the French Revolution by focusing on elite women collectors and their practices of historicized self-fashioning across media. Her research abroad has been funded by the Société des Professeurs Français et Francophones d'Amérique's Bourse Jeanne Marandon and by the NYU Provost’s Global Research Initiative Fellowship. She was formerly a Research Associate at the Art Institute of Chicago and has worked at the Brooklyn Museum and the National Gallery of Art.



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