The Growing Economic Power of the Middle Class in the 1700s

by ancoldeira


When looking at Classical art, there were many paintings and plays that displayed the middle class growing power during the 1700s. The middle class was rising in many aspects. Theaters were arising for middle class enjoyment. Unlicensed theaters were coming about. Although, opposed by government they found ways to stay open. The play was free of charge but refreshments cost money and were required. These unlicensed theaters were a threat to the government, they were a fear of staged political satire.



The Embarkation for Cythera, by French Rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau in 1717

The painting is now displayed in the Lourve in Paris.


One of the first ones that stood out to me was The Embarkation for Cythera also known as Voyage to Cythera. It was the celebrating that drew me into this particular painting. I couldn’t help but notice the excitement and enjoyment that the middle class were portraying in this painting. This painting shows “fete galante”. It is a celebration taking place after the death of Louis XIV. This period was usually seen as a time of pleasure and peace after the bad years of the reign of Louis XIV.




Oath of the Horatti, by French artist Jacques-Louis David in 1784

The painting is now displayed in Louvre in Paris


The second painting that I was drawn to is called Oath of the Horatii. When I saw this picture I immediately noticed how these ordinary men was so eagerly reaching for the swords. The determination of these men was very touching to me. You could tell by looking at the painting that they were eager and willing to achieve their mission.  I then did research to understand the meaning behind this particular painting. This painting shows a scene of three sons that were willing to risk their life to end a dispute between Rome and Alba Longa. The picture shows them willing reaching for swords from their father. An agreement was made that the war would end if three brothers from Rome battled three brothers from Alba Longa. The three brothers from Rome were known as the Horatii and the three brothers from the Alba Longa were known as the Curiatii. This relates to the rising of middle class because it displays how these middle class men were so eager to risk their own lives for peace. This seems to be a willful rise of middle class for the peace of their nation.


The Beggar’s Opera, by John Gay in 1728 in the Tate Britain



The third piece of art that really stood out to me as a rise of middle class was The Beggar’s Opera. I found this opera to be completely different than most of the opera’s I have seen so far throughout this class. I thought it was kind of a rebellion of middle class and it was very fun to watch. The entire opera is focused around peasants and middle class. This particular opera does not use grand music and themes of opera. It instead uses tunes that were familiar to the average person. It even uses ordinary people as it’s characters. The storyline of this play was to satirize politics, poverty and injustice. The play focused on a theme of corruption at all levels of the society.


Works Cited


The Beggar’s Opera. 27 Feb 2013. Web. 3 March 2013.


Classical theatre. April 24th, 2009. Web.  3 March 2013.

The Embarkation for Cythera. 27 Feb 2013. Web. 3 March 2013.

Oath of the Horatii. 20 Feb 2013. Web. 3 March 2013.