Le Sourire de Marie-Antoinette: la mort en surimpression dans Mémoires d’outre-tombe


In book five of the Mémoires d’outre-tombe Chateaubriand recalls Marie-Antoinette, superimposing the memory of her smile with that of her skull exhumed in 1815. Starting with this hallucinatory overlay (smiling woman / grimacing skull) this article discusses the kinship between Chateaubriand’s writing of memory and the various optical techniques popular at the time, including daguerreotypes, dioramas, waxworks, fantasmagorias, ghost photography, stereoscopy, double exposures, etc. Focusing mainly on the memoir’s female portraits, I show that, while they are obviously indebted to the venerable tradition of the vanitas, they also owe something to modern illusionistic spectacles, and I explore the affinity between the techniques of image mobility and memory phenomena, which were naturally troped in terms of the new optical inventions. (In French)

Dominique Jullien
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