Art patronage and court influence, 1660-1714

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: History Faculty

Abstract

This thesis will investigate the influence of the court on art patronage in the later Stuart period. Through a series of case studies of individuals, couples and one club, associated with or linked to the court, it will seek to understand how court, public and private spheres interacted in the commissioning and collecting of the visual arts, including painting, architecture and interiors. Taking into consideration questions of style, fashion, and the emerging concept of 'taste', it will take an interdisciplinary approach to look beyond art history to the nexus between art and politics, and ask how far artistic patronage reflected a shift in political power in this period of significant upheaval.

Art historians as recently as 2012 have considered the patronage of the later Stuart courts as a period of decline. New scholarship, including James Winn's biographical survey of Queen Anne's patronage, the Tate research project and associated publication Court, Country, City, and David Solkin's Art in Britain 1660-1815 have demonstrated the vitality of the arts in the later Stuart period, integrating them into their political, social and cultural context. However, more research is needed into art patronage, specifically, the question of court influence. As the locus of power shifted away from the court, did patronage follow suit? Helen Jacobsen's Luxury and Power, surveys the patronage of diplomats and their use of display and connoisseurship as a political tool, but is restricted to this one group. Many detailed surveys of individual patrons, genres and buildings exist but these are either single discipline, or focus on one individual or period only.

Art patronage is also intimately linked to questions of style, fashion, connoisseurship and aesthetic philosophy. The V&A's 2009 exhibition Baroque: Style in the Age of Magnificence challenged the association of Baroque with the Counter-Reformation or absolutism and defined it as a style of magnificence and expressiveness. Nevertheless, it has been argued that the emerging notion of taste, with its associations of moral superiority, and an alternative, more democratic aesthetic, exemplified by the Kit-Cat club, mounted a challenge to the leadership of the court, both culturally and politically.

This thesis will investigate the degree of influence exercised by the later Stuart courts on the art patronage of key individuals associated with the court. Drawing on network theory, it will consider how patronage was exercised in the overlapping spheres of court, country, parliament, party and private interests, and will question what this reveals about the locus and exercise of power. Considering artistic style and aesthetic theory, it will question whether the transfer of power during this period from a Catholic- and absolutist-leaning monarchy, to a more meritocratic aristocracy and parliament, was paralleled by a change in the role of the court as a source of inspiration and arbiter of taste.

This thesis will use case studies selected to achieve a broad representation of time periods and corresponding courts; of men and women; of political affiliations; of noble and ordinary birth. The particular issues interrogated in each case study will be brought together by a common analytical focus on the relationship between political power and art patronage. Addressing the visual arts, principally painting, sculpture, architecture, interior decoration and furnishing, it will use correspondence, inventories, contemporary accounts and publications, and the artworks themselves to identify not only what art was commissioned and collected, but how and why.

Co-supervised by Tate under the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme, the research undertaken for this thesis will also contribute to the forthcoming exhibition at Tate Britain, 'English Baroque, 1660-1714'.

Publications

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Title British Baroque exhibition 
Description My research contributed to the development of the British Baroque exhibition, held at Tate Britain 4 February - 19 April 2020. I was involved in the process of selecting exhibits, writing interpretation wall texts and installing the exhibition. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact Forecast visitor figures of approximately 40,000, plus reach of associated media coverage. 
URL https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/british-baroque
 
Description Travel to Christie's Education conference, New York
Amount £300 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2018 
End 06/2018
 
Description Hardwick Hall (NT) Conservation Management Plan input 
Organisation National Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I met with the Curators, Collections Manager and Conservation Plan manager to discuss findings from my research relating to objects in the collection at Hardwick Hall, a National Trust property in Derbyshire. My research is being incorporated into the plan, which will inform the National Trust's priorities at Hardwick Hall for the next 25 years.
Collaborator Contribution Writing Conservation Management Plan, collections care and interpretation to the public.
Impact Content incorporated into Conservation Management Plan, informing National Trust strategic priorities at Hardwick Hall.
Start Year 2019
 
Description British Baroque PMC tour 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I gave a tour of the British Baroque exhibition to a group of museum professionals from the Paul Mellon Centre Early Career Researchers Network
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description British Baroque exhibition; press visit to Chatsworth House 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I attended a press visit to Chatsworth House, relating to the 'British Baroque' exhibition at Tate Britain. Five journalists attended. Together with other colleagues, I gave the journalists a tour of the house and gardens, talking about my research. This resulted in a large, favourable article in a national newspaper.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description British Murals Network Twitter account 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I manage the Twitter account of the British Murals Network, communicating images and information about mural painting, including findings of my own research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://twitter.com/britishmurals
 
Description Financial Times weekend journalist interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I gave an interview and tour of the British Baroque exhibition to a journalist, together with my PhD supervisor. This resulted in a half-page article in the Financial Times weekend with a reach of approximately 500,000 readers. A substantial amount of the article was based on my research findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.ft.com/content/2f8b4a4c-4dfc-11ea-95a0-43d18ec715f5
 
Description Personal Twitter account 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Regular tweets relating to my research including promotion of Tate British Baroque exhibition
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019,2020
URL https://twitter.com/amyplusthree
 
Description Public Lecture: Women and Patronage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I delivered a lecture at the Royal Academy of Arts, 'Queens, Consorts and Courtiers: women art patrons in late Stuart Britain' as part of a weekend course attended by members of the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/event/courses-and-classes-women-patrons-international-womens-day