Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 October 2021
Chapter 3 shifts from Britain and Switzerland to France, where electric demonstrations and experimental physics courses had become extremely popular in the 1780s. The artist Girodet referenced the visual and structural features of eighteenth-century electricity in both his written and his painted work. Specifically, he was drawn to its treatment of the human body, which was said to be a porous and penetrable entity capable of receiving and transmitting this powerful, immaterial force. Yet Girodet’s paintings featured dissolving bodies, strange atmospheric effects, and highly unorthodox forms of illumination that were incompatible with the empirical procedures that were central to the study of electricity. Reflecting on the revolutionary implications of a porous conception of selfhood, Girodet’s paintings thus interrogated the epistemological and political viability of an electrified body.