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Public Faces and Private Identities in Seventeenth-Century Holland Portraiture and the Production of Community by Ann Jensen Adams

Public Faces and Private Identities in Seventeenth-Century Holland Portraiture and the Production of Community


Public Faces and Private Identities in Seventeenth-Century Holland Portraiture and the Production of Community by Ann Jensen Adams

During the seventeenth century, Dutch portraits were actively commissioned by corporate groups and by individuals from a range of economic and social classes. They became among the most important genres of painting. Not merely mimetic representations of their subjects, many of these works create a new dialogic relationship with the viewer. Ann Jensen Adams examines four portrait genres - individuals, the family, history portraits, and civic guards. She analyzes these works in relation to inherited visual traditions, contemporary art theory, changing cultural beliefs about the body, about sight, and the image itself, as well as to current events. Adams argues that as individuals became unmoored from traditional sources of identity, such as familial lineage, birthplace, and social class, portraits helped them to find security in a self-aware subjectivity and the new social structures that made possible the 'economic miracle' that has come to be known as the Dutch Golden Age.


Adams's book deserves appreciation for its innovative, insightful approach to a type of art whose value neither historians nor art historians have fully appreciated.

-Benjamin Kaplan, Journal of Modern History Her emphasis on multiple social identities that crossed regional, class, and religious boundaries evokes the important social role of the pictures she examines for a culturally diverse society and consequently the centrality of context for understanding how they were viewed.

-CATHERINE LEVESQUE,The College of William and Mary This long-awaited cultural study comes out to much anticipation, and it does not disappoint.

--Seventeenth-Century News In summary we can say that Public Faces and Private Identities is a well-written and inspiring text, systematically constructed toward the author's closing arguments. The book is a welcome addition to the existing literature on the still underrated portrait genre.

--Historians of Netherlandish Art

About the Author

Ann Jensen Adams is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A scholar of Dutch painting, she is editor of Rembrandt's Bathsheba Reading David's Letter and has contributed to The Art Bulletin and the Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek. She has received fellowships from The Mrs Giles Whiting Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Trust, The Getty Research Institute, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th May 2013


Ann Jensen Adams

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Cambridge University Press


411 pages


History of art & design styles: c 1600 to c 1800
Painting & paintings



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