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Title: The family picture : a study of identity construction in seventeenth-century Dutch portraits
Author: Gavaghan, Kerry Lynn
ISNI:       0000 0004 5369 5707
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The seventeenth century saw a large increase in family-related portrait materials, including group family portraits, family portrait collections, and family memorial albums. In this thesis, I contend with the meanings and functions of family portraits created in the Netherlands in an attempt to illuminate the motives behind the rise in the number of portraits of the family during this period. I focus on the ways in which Dutch families utilised portraiture as a vehicle for constructing personal and national identity. In an age of extraordinary economic success, religious tension, and political upheaval, portraits of the members of the expanding Dutch ‘middle class’, who had the means and the desire to commission them, reveal a conscious inclination to define and substantiate a fashioned identity as the new urban elite of a Republic in the making. My study assesses family portraits as sites where identity and changing notions of selfhood were envisioned and performed. The shifting notions of ‘family’, and the increasing popularity of commissioning portraits seems to signal attempts to configure and imagine their relationship to Dutch society. I propose that the amount of portraits related to the family commissioned alongside an exploration of and struggle with identity is a symptom of the anxiety surrounding politics, religion, and social changes, for which the family often served as a metaphor. New perspectives on portrait theory and identity, especially those of Ann Jensen Adams and Joanna Woodall, contributed to the shaping of this thesis, particularly as a means to comprehend how portraits functioned in the lives of families. There are four chapters that make up the body of this thesis. In each chapter, I focus on specific works of art chosen for their suitability in highlighting certain concepts and anxieties about identity and the family in its cultural context at their extremes.
Supervisor: Grootenboer, Hanneke Sponsor: Association for Low Countries Studies ; Francis Haskell Memorial Fund ; Arnold, Bryce and Read Funds of the History Faculty ; Department of the History of Art
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of art and visual culture ; Portrait painting ; Dutch--17th century ; Identity (Psychology) in art ; Art and society--Netherlands--History--17th century