Welcome to my blog! My name is Philippe Halbert and I am a senior (when did that happen?!) at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. I am a history and French double major and am currently conducting research for an honor’s thesis in French, to be completed in the spring of 2011.

This blog will record the progress of my research in Paris and the Ïle-de-France this summer and throughout the 2010-2011 academic year. I am exploring the topic of monsters in early-modern France, specifically the cultural dimensions and implications of the “harpies” of 1784.  Printed images and descriptions of these imaginary beasts took France and neighboring countries by storm beginning in October of that year.  Inspiring and subsequently shaped by this visual culture of engravings and etchings, artists including fashion merchants and playwrights, naturalists, and social critics, saw the harpy as a symbolic monster that spoke to numerous concerns and issues in eighteenth-century France.

My research at several Parisian libraries and regional archives, as well as that gathered from visits to several sites in the surrounding area such as Chantilly, Écouen, Fontainebleau, Gien, Marly, Sceaux, Senlis and Versailles, will go towards my honors thesis for which I was awarded the McCormack-Reboussin Scholarship at the College of William and Mary. Special thanks to the McCormack family for its generous support of this research, as well as to the faculty members of the French and History departments at the College for their guidance and support during the research period.

To be directed back to the French and Francophone Studies Department’s homepage

For more information on the McCormack-Reboussin Scholarship

To be directed back to the History Department’s homepage


Dear Philippe,
I am a MA student at the Bard Graduate Center in NY doing research of the dog culture of 18th c. France and I happened to stumble across your blog. It is really fascinating and it sounds like you found some amazing resources in France. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of going there to do research right now. I’m just doing a short research paper on the topic, and I’m not quite sure what my exact focus will be yet. I first came across this topic while doing research on a Niche de chien which belonged to Marie Antoinette and is now at the Met Museum. I was just wondering if you knew of any sources that were particularly helpful to you that might be available to me here in NY? I am especially interested in the depiction of dogs in art and the material culture relating to dogs (collars, niches, leashes etc.). Any references you might have on the topic would be extremely helpful & appreciated. Thanks so much. Good luck with your thesis!
Katrina London

Dear Katrina,
That sounds awesome, I’m considering the Bard program for grad school.

One site that’s always been of use to me is http://www.photo.rmn.fr

It’s the image database of the French national museums’ collections. Go to “recherche” from the homepage, and then for starters, you could type in chien in the texte libre box. Put in 18e siecle, and you’re good.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s have some niches from past auctions online. I think it’s Christie’s that has a pair belonging to the marquise de Pompadour. I photographed a document from 1757 listing repairs and furniture delivery to apartments in Versailles at the Archives Nationales this past summer. One of the pages lists a niche en tabouret, basically, a doghouse with a padded seat on top. I could email you the photograph if you like.

Desportes and Oudry are really good for representations of hunting dogs, for smaller dogs there’s Bachelier and Fragonard of course has some good ones.

Thanks so much! That’s a really good database to know about. I did see the pair of niches belonging to Mme de Pompadour- they are great. I would be really interested to see the document from the Archives that you found if you’re sure you wouldn’t mind emailing it. my email is kl6628@bard.edu. The only really good book on the subject that I’ve found is Vies de Chiens published by the Musee de la Chasse et da la Nature- did you come across that one yet? If not, I think it would be useful for you too. Let me know if you ever have any questions about Bard when you start applying to grad school. Thanks again!

Hello Philippe,
I know this may sound strange, but I found your blog because I was looking for any information on a decorative column I just bought (I teach in English and Women’s Studies at the University of Florida; your project sounds very interesting, by the way!).
Because your work is about chimeras etc., I wanted to describe the one I bought–I believe it might be a Victorian reproduction of an Italian or French source. It is about 3 feet tall, with the head of a lion with tongue outstretched, wings, large pendulous breasts, a bird hanging upside down on its breast, and one large lion’s paw at the bottom. My question is, if you have the time to answer it, what significance would the upside-down bird have? I think the rest is a combination of chimera/harpy.
Thanks so much for your time–I know this is a strange question out of the blue, not really having to do with your thesis, but I was curious.

Hi Tace,
Sorry for the delay in replying to your question. It would be interesting to see a picture of the column. I’m wondering if it might just be a decorative element, but I’m not sure. I have some examples of console tables from the early-eighteenth century that show chimeras fighting over birds and other small animals.

Hey There! Great research… I am writing a paper for my undergrad on a Desportes painting hanging in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Here is a photo: http://imgur.com/2uFNk

This is from 1713, and is a second version of a painting, the original is in the Louvre. Your blog got me thinking that maybe I could identify loyal dog on the left. Possibly “Nonne” based on the speckles on his leg. Hard to say though, since he seems to be a bit brown rather than black here, and is missing the dot in the center of his temple! Anyway, just thought I’d share, and if anything of significance comes to mind when you look at my Desportes, feel free to share 🙂

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