41st Annual Conference & Bookfair
Sainsbury Institute for Art, UEA, Norwich
9 – 11 April 2015
Portraiture and the Unworthy Subject in the Early Modern World
Paper proposal deadline: 10 November 2014
Session convenor: Carmen Fracchia, Birkbeck, University of London, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the early modern period, the production of portraiture was governed by restrictive conventions. According to the first European treatise on portraiture since antiquity (Francisco de Holanda’s Do tirar polo natural [On Taking Portraits from Life], 1548), the essence of the genre was the worthy sitter’s moral or intellectual prestige. Thus, the main function of the portrait image was to immortalise the worthy elite, with the implicit moral understanding that there could be no room for the portrayal of the unworthy subject. What are the political and visual implications of this belief about portraiture? What are the notions of human diversity that prevent the portrayal of undeserving subjects? How are these concepts negotiated in the production of the portrait image outside Europe?
This session aims to build on research by historians of art, literature and the colonial world, and work on slave narratives that illuminate the paradoxical nature of ‘slave portraits’ in the Atlantic World. It intends to explore a wider spectrum of what were considered ‘unworthy subjects’, and the complexity of the mutually exclusive categories of ‘portraiture’ and ‘undeserving subject’. It also seeks to tackle the oxymoronic categories of ‘self-portraiture’ and ‘unworthy subject’, and investigate how notions of human diversity might challenge the boundaries of traditional portraiture and self-portraiture.
Contributions are invited that address the portrayal of ‘undeserving people’ across different media and cultures in the early modern world, as well as the historical context of social inferiority and the ‘undeserving’ between the 15th and the 18th centuries.
– See more at: http://www.aah.org.uk/annual-conference/sessions2015/session24#sthash.8VY0zg3x.dpuf
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
Portrait of Juan de Pareja, 1650
oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York