Christine Rolland '76 did the preliminary research and wrote the catalog for an exhibition that opened on Saturday, July 28 in Tonnerre, in France's Burgundy region.
The exhibition, organized by the town government, in honor of one of the most extraordinary people born there, the Chevalier d'Éon (1728-1810) — now known mostly because he spent 45 years living as a man — lawyer, author, royal censor, diplomat, secret agent and military hero — and the next 35 years as a woman, likely with the king's blessing and support.
Until recently, most biographers have been interested only in the question of his public sexual ambiguity. This exhibition looks at the life of d'Éon from a variety of perspectives in addition to gender issues.
Visitors will discover through portraits, artifacts and texts, many sides to the 18th century: rare book and manuscript collecting, swordsmanship, games, secret networks, relationships between artists and clients, propaganda, media manipulation and more. Because d'Éon was a prolific writer and correspondent, primary sources abound and this exhibition unveils many for the first time.
Rolland, an art major at HWS, where she was a member of the basketball and field hockey teams and completed an honors project, later earned her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of California-Santa Barbara. A member of an interdisciplinary history research group at the University of Rouen, she lives in Normandy with her husband and two children. The exhibition will be in place through Sunday, Sept. 2.