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Title: The Indian cashmere shawl and social status in British art, 1760-1870
Author: Van Schoor, Jennifer Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 8980
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis explores visual representations of social status in British art between 1760 and 1870 to analyse the significance of Indian Cashmere shawls, and the British-made shawls they inspired, as objects associated with the notion of respectability. The appropriation and domestication of this Indian garment by the British, and how it intersected with multiple formations of respectability over the late eighteenth and nineteenth century while also enduring as a fashion item, are shown to have provided women with a symbol through which to negotiate and shape their own social standing within a fluid social hierarchy. The semiotic economy of the shawl and its expressive material form provided artists with a visual language to engage with representations of contemporary social change or status display. Uniquely, this thesis offers an art historical study of the shawl in British culture which is both temporally expansive and socially broad, in order to understand eighteenth- and nineteenth-century perceptions of a garment that became integrated into diverse visual representations of respectable womanhood in Britain between 1760 and 1870. During this period, the Cashmere shawl would appear in a large number of British portraits and narrative paintings, representing a wide range of British women, from royalty and noblewomen to bourgeois wives and daughters, society hostesses, farmers' wives and even fallen women. Through analysis of these paintings we gain a deeper understanding of the complex and nuanced ways women negotiated social mobility, status and identity and how artists used this object's association with respectability to participate in an increasingly complex discourse on the effects of Britain's industrial progress and global expansion; what impact industrial innovation had on the meaning of status; how conflict in India found expression in the ways women presented themselves; and how artists responded to the negative effects of social change through representations of women.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available