Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Art History

Major Professor

Heather Vinson, M.A.

Committee Member

Elisabeth Fraser, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Noël Schiller, Ph.D.


Napoleon III, Second Empire, Bibelot, Fetish, Commodity


This study examines self-fashioning and the practice of collecting in Second Empire Paris as manifest in James Tissot's Jeunes femmes regardant des objets japonais (1869, Cincinnati Museum of Art). The painting, exhibited in the Salon of 1869, conspicuously portrays Tissot's own collection of exotic Asian collectibles and the artist's private luxe interior. When scholars investigate and interpret Jeunes femmes, it is regularly defined within the prescriptive realm of Tissot's later London paintings, or of his well known series, La Femme à Paris. I argue for a less circumspect engagement with the painting, by focusing on the portrayal of the collectible objects and the decadent interior as evidence of bourgeois self-fashioning and the decorous display and consumption concomitant with Second Empire Paris.

This thesis considers the history of collecting in Second Empire Paris; in particular, the early impact of japonisme on Tissot's artwork. Recent scholarship largely regards Tissor's initial engagement with japonisme, as demonstrated by Japonaise au bain (1864, Muse des Beaux-Arts, Dijon) and Jeune femme tenant des objets japonais (1865, Private Collection), as trite. I argue that such categorizing biased sound consideration of Jeunes femmes. I investigate Tissot's interaction with Japanese aristocracy and contend that his appointment as drawing instructor to Prince Akitake marked a turning point in his artistic career and in his reputation as a collector.

This thesis also explores the role of fetish as an operative analytical tool. By employing the theories of Freudian and Marxist fetish, I am able to scrutinize the collectible objects' inclusion and meticulous representation, account for the obsessive nature of the collector and investigate specific strategies of posturing and self-promotion. Moreover, I can discuss the painting, and the collection it portrays, as a producing agent for Tissot's own artistic and social legacy. Ultimately, I conclude that Jeunes femmes, a richly detailed painting of Tissot's collectibles and interior space, is implicitly concerned with bourgeois self-fashioning and Tissot's own need for financial and social legitimization.