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West, Shearer, , . The Functions of Portraiture
2004, In: Portraiture, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 43-69.
Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Summary: Posits that aesthetic value has only rarely been the primary inspiration in the commissioning, display, and reception of portraits. Discusses the different functions that portraits and portrait collections have fulfilled. Includes sections on the portrait as biography, the portrait as document, the portrait as proxy and gift, the portrait as commemoration and memorial, the portrait as political tool.

Comment: A central text for classes on portraiture. Very useful in any classes focusing on non-aesthetic function of art.

Artworks to use with this text:

Anonymous, after an engraving by Simon Van de Passe, Pocahontas (after 1616)

Words painted on a portrait were often important in establishing the authenticity of the likeness, but in this case that claim is misleading, as this portrait was a third-hand image. Moreover, Pocahantos is depicted as white, described as a Christian convert, and principally identified as the wife of John Rolfe.

Jean-Étienne Liotard, Portrait of Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone at 7 years of age (1755-6)

Because pastel portraits rendered the person both lifelike and seemingly touchable, they potentially had an erotic and fetishistic quality and were collected obsessively.

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