This interdisciplinary study examines painted portraiture as a defining metaphor of elite self-representation in early modern culture.
Beginning with Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier (1528), the most influential early modern account of the formation of elite identity, the argument traces a path across the ensuing century towards the images of courtiers and nobles by the most persuasive of European portrait painters, Van Dyck, especially those produced in London during the 1630s. It investigates two related kinds of texts: those which, following Castiglione, model the conduct of the ideal courtier or elite social conduct more generally; and those belonging to the established tradition of debates about the condition of nobility –how far it is genetically inherited and how far a function of excelling moral and social behaviour. Van Dyck is seen as contributing to these discussions through the language of pictorial art.
The book will be of interest to scholars working in art history, cultural history, early modern history and Renaissance studies.
Table of Contents
Introduction 1. Courtiers, Nobles and Visual Representation 2. Sprezzatura and its Afterlife: from Castiglione to Faret 3. Nobility and the Art of Painting 4. The Nobly Negligent Painter 5. Van Dyck’s Almost Complete Gentleman 6. Nobles and Nobilities: English Double Portraits 7. Conclusion: Nobles and Courtiers
John Peacock was Reader in English at the University of Southampton UK, where he is now a Visiting Fellow.