Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities
2010—2011 Forum on Virtuality
History of Art
Arresting Beauty: The Perfectionist Impulse of Peale’s Butterflies, Heade’s Hummingbirds, Blaschka’s Flowers, and Sandow’s Body
This project investigates nineteenth-century ideas about perfection and its preservation. Studies of Titian Peale’s butterfly projects, Martin Johnson Heade’s depictions of hummingbirds, representations of bodybuilder Eugen Sandow, and Harvard’s “Glass Flowers” reveal a period desire to stop time at a perfect moment, arresting a “perfect state” amidst turn-of-the-century fears and hopes about change, decay, progress, and evolution. As technologies of representation and reproduction radically changed expectations and understandings of images and their circulation, centuries-old debates about mimesis, idealization, realism and naturalism acquired greater urgency. These works are distillations of a perfect moment captured in a culture that was made increasingly aware of temporality by the introduction of standardized time, alarm clocks, factory schedules, and the emerging media of instantaneous photography and film.