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Embodiment and decoration: Matisse's Rosary Chapel in Vence, France

Burgess, Lauren (2014) Embodiment and decoration: Matisse's Rosary Chapel in Vence, France. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Although Henri Matisse’s Rosary Chapel in Vence, France was completed when the artist was 82 years old, it was the first piece the painter referred to as his “masterpiece.” Despite its prestige within Matisse’s extensive body of work, the chapel is only framed by the art historical community in two ways: as a result of the famed elderly artist’s long career in painting and as a space containing isolated works of art to be examined separately. Neither of these approaches are representative of the real significance of the Chapel as an inhabitable architectural space. Because of its multifunctional active human use and the nature of its design, it is vital to consider the Chapel as a space in which interactions amongst people, modern art, and different kinds of ritual occur. This involves moments both when the nuns, costumed priest, and parishioners engage with the space as a tool of their religious ritual worship and when non-religious visitors attend the space for a fee to experience the work of Henri Matisse. In the later moment, the function of the Chapel shifts away from the artist’s intent and its religious purpose to accommodate its popularity as a work of art.
This analysis employs my personal experience and analysis of the chapel space, writings of Matisse and his collaborators, and visual documentation of the site to argue that the Chapel truly functions in a complex way that differs from the narrative previously put forth in scholarship. This paper endeavors to consider how ritual interactions occur in the Chapel and what meaning can be derived from examining how people occupy this decorative space. My research of the Rosary Chapel acts as a case study for understanding human interactions in space and gaining further meaning from art based on an examination of the environment in which it is housed in multiple historical and social contexts.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Burgess, Laurenleb79@pitt.eduLEB79
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorBender, GretchenGHB1@pitt.eduGHB1
Committee MemberArmstrong, Christophercda68@pitt.eduCDA68
Committee MemberPaterson, Markpaterson@pitt.eduPATERSON
Committee MemberDolkart,
Date: 25 April 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 March 2014
Approval Date: 25 April 2014
Submission Date: 18 April 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 45
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Henri Matisse, Chapel, Rosary Chapel at Vence, Chapel of the Dominicans, 1951, embodiment, architectural inhabitance
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2014 16:01
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:19


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