Colloques et journées d'études

Cultural Exchange, Performing Arts, Transnational History and Museology between Frederiksborg and Versailles (1660-1878)

Workshop – ANNULÉ – Centre de recherche du château de Versailles

Attention : ce Workshop a été annulé et ne sera pas reporté.

With a focus on transnational studies, cultural mobility, and performing arts, we aim to explore and question the idea of a universalist French culture exported to Denmark and its reception at the court of Copenhagen during this two-days workshop. The self-fashioning of the aristocratic and cosmopolitan court culture was undeniably influenced by France during the Enlightenment, but the French myth often clashed with local identity, a different language, as well as cultural, political, and religious differences.

By studying the Danes living or travelling to Paris and Versailles as well as the French travelers to the north, we intend to understand their careers and the possible cultural imprints they left. We will focus on people and their practices, rather than “culture”, since the latter has no agency and the process is not unidirectional, from a transmitting to a receiving context. Rather it is multidirectional and mutual ; the exported cultural materials along with their practices are transformed and adapted to their new context. Travel literature or travelers’ correspondence represent precious testimonies of the travelers’ impressions and perceptions of the country s/he’s visiting and its cultural discrepancies with her/his own culture.

Cultural exchange may take many forms, but performing arts (music, theatre, and dance) are certainly one of the most interesting artforms to study how culture is exported, translated, and adapted to a new environment. In order to understand the role of performing arts in this perspective, we will study broader concepts that are associated with migration, diaspora, métissage, and nationalism in opposition with cosmopolitan identities. The productions needed to be tailored and adapted to their new context and their foreign audience, often by means of translations or rewritings, along with educating an audience unfamiliar with theatrical productions.

Along with performing arts and travelling accounts, press is an important written source to study identities in a migration context. Laurent Angliviel de La Beaumelle (1726-1773) represents a fascinating case and will be the subject of one of the sessions. A Huguenot in exile, he became the first professor of French at Copenhagen University and left a strong imprint on the cultural life at the Danish court, notably by writing French revues intended for the Danish aristocracy in Copenhagen.

Court ceremonials, etiquette and portraiture are also revealing of cultural practices. Rank, representations of power and cultural practices and can take various forms, which can be studied by a comparison between Danish and French ceremonials, along with a comparison of Danish and French kings’ portraits. In one of the sessions, we will study how the French and Danish court displayed and controlled power by the use ceremonial and portraiture.

Versailles and Frederiksborg have often been compared by naming Frederiksborg the “Versailles of Denmark” in a naïve and anachronic way. However, both palaces are closely linked by their museology, since the brewer and patron of the arts Jacob Christian Jacobsen visited the Musée de l’histoire de France, instigated by Louis-Philippe and opened in 1837 at Versailles. His visit made a lasting impression on him and he decided to create Det nationalhistoriske museum at Frederiksborg based on the museology of its French counterpart. One of the sessions will be dedicated to studying the conceptions and legacies of both museums in the nineteenth century.

During the eighteenth century, the stereotypes associated with the North changed drastically. The perception of Scandinavia as a dark and barbarian periphery inhabited by ruthless Vikings left way to a new image of Nordic people as free, strong, and democratic but who had yet to evolved in a more civilized society. It was also the period when the first history books on the north were written. Scandinavia has largely been ignored by scholars working on cultural transfers and a perspective from the North does not only bring Denmark on the map, but also shed new light on European cultural relations and cosmopolitanism.

During this two-days workshop, various perspectives will be explored :

  • What does French culture represent in Denmark ? Which aspects are accepted and eagerly imported in Denmark (fashion, cooking, theatre, among others) and which ones are rejected (religion, politics, or others) ?
  • What is transferred exactly and how when we discuss about cultural exchanges ? It is not the culture, but an idea of what it represents, its agents (artists, writers, ambassadors), their routes across Europe, the production of a spectacle and especially its adaptation, translation, de-nationalisation in order to tailor it for a new audience
  • How are Denmark and the Danish culture perceived in France ? By studying travel literature or other written account, what can we learn about this perception, alternatively made of admiration and rejection ?
  • Reciprocally, how are the French and their culture perceived in Denmark ?
  • What does court ceremonial and portraiture reveal about culture ?

This workshop is open to the public, subject to seat availability.
To register, please send an email to

Site réalisé avec le soutien de :
Château de Versailles
Conseil général des Yvelines