Embodying the Nation: Art, Fashion, and Allegorical Women at the 1900 Exposition Universelle

Anne Dymond


This paper examines how the female body was used at the 1900 Exposition Universelle to map the relation between France, Paris, and the provinces. A series of contentious issues facing the nation, including consumption and production, modernity and tradition, evolution and stasis, were articulated through the marked contrast between representations of La Parisienne and her provincial sisters. This paper focuses on the main gateway constructed for the exhibition, the Porte Monumentale, in order to explore how the Exposition configured the nation in a discursive relationship of centre and periphery. Despite rhetoric that positioned the fair as decentralizing, in fact, the 1900 Exposition used such gendered geographical allegories to posit relations between the nation, its capital city, and its regions that seemed natural but were highly hierarchical and politicized. Using Provence as an example, I conclude by examining how regional groups used the limited means available to them to insert themselves into the national narrative.


Art and politics; gender and art; World Fairs; Exposition Universelle 1900; Porte monumentale; La Parisienne; Arlésienne; Binet; Paquin

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