New Book | Portrayal and the Search for Identity

Posted in books by Editor on September 5, 2013

Published last December by Reaktion and distributed by the University of Chicago Press:

Marica Pointon, Portrayal and the Search for Identity (London: Reaktion Books, 2012), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-1780230412, £25 / $40.

9781780230412We are surrounded by portraits: from the cipher-like portrait of a queen on a banknote to security pass photos; from images of politicians in the media to Facebook; from galleries exhibiting Titian or Leonardo to contemporary art featuring the self-image, as with Jeff Koons or Cindy Sherman. In Antiquity portraiture was of major importance in the exercise of power. Today it remains not only a component of everyday life but also a crucial way for artists to define themselves in relation to their environment and their contemporaries.

In Portrayal and the Search for Identity, Marcia Pointon investigates how we view and understand portraiture as a genre, and how portraits function as artworks within social and political networks. Likeness is never a straightforward matter as we rarely have the subject of a portrait as a point of comparison. Featuring familiar canonical portraits as well as little-known works, Portrayal seeks to unsettle notions of portraiture as an art of convention, a reassuring reflection of social realities. Readers are instead invited to consider how identity is produced pictorially, and where likeness is registered apart from in a face. In exploring these issues, the author addresses wide-ranging challenges, such as the construction of masculinity in dress, representations of slaves, and self-portraiture in relation to mortality.

Marcia Pointon is an independent scholar and research consultant; she is Professor Emeritus of History of Art at the University of Manchester and Honorary Research Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. She is author of Brilliant Effects: A Cultural History of Gem Stones and Jewellery and Hanging the Head: Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth-century England.



1. Portrait, Fact and Fiction
2. Slavery and the Possibilities of Portraiture
3. Adolescence, Sexuality and Colour in Portraiture: Sir Thomas Lawrence
4. Accessories in Portraits: Stockings, Buttons and the Construction of Masculinity in the Eighteenth Century
5. The Skull in the Studio

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

Display | Ben Okri on Ayuba Suleiman Diallo

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on September 5, 2013

From the NPG:

Ben Okri on Ayuba Suleiman Diallo: A Dialogue Across Time
National Portrait Gallery, London, 20 September 2013 — 16 March 2014

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (Job ben Solomon) by William Hoare oil on canvas, 1733 30 in. x 25 in. (762 mm x 635 mm) Lent by Qatar Museums Authority/Orientalist Museum, Doha, OM 762, Qatar Museums Authority: Doha: Qatar, 2010 Primary Collection NPG L245

William Hoare, Portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (Job ben Solomon), 1733 (NPG L245, Lent by Qatar Museums Authority/Orientalist Museum, Doha, 2010)

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo was an educated man from a family of Muslim clerics in West Africa. In 1731 he was taken into slavery and sent to work on a plantation in America. By his own enterprise, and assisted by a series of spectacular strokes of fortune, Diallo arrived in London in 1733. Recognised as a deeply pious and educated man, in England Diallo mixed with high and intellectual society, was introduced at Court and was bought out of slavery by public subscription. Through the publication of his Memoirs in 1734, Diallo had an important and lasting impact on Britain’s understanding of West African culture, black identity and Islam. In the early years of the nineteenth-century, advocates of the abolition of slavery would cite Diallo as a key figure in asserting the moral rights and humanity of black people.

Booker-prize winning Ben Okri is one of Britain’s finest writers. Fascinated with the enigmatic story of Diallo, and his relevance today, Okri embarked on a series of conversations to explore the painting and its impact with audiences at the National Portrait Gallery and its regional partners in Liverpool, South Shields and Leicester. Okri’s new poem, which is part of the display, is inspired by this journey of discovery into the moving and sometimes uncomfortable story of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo and a portrait which raises many questions.

The tour and display has been made possible by the generosity of Thomson Reuters, the Qatar Museums Authority and individual Gallery supporters. The display and its interpretation is complemented by a series of talks and events funded by the American Friends of the National Portrait Gallery, including a conversation between Ben Okri and Gus Casely-Hayford.

Call for Papers | ASECS 2014 in Williamsburg

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on September 5, 2013

Reminder: the due date is 15 September!

2014 American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Conference
Williamsburg, 20–22 March 2014

Proposals due by 15 September 2013


Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia. The original structure was built between
1710 and 1722, with further additions made in the 1750s. Fire destroyed the
main house in 1781. The present building was constructed in the early 1930s.
Photo by Larry Pieniazek, 2006, from Wikimedia Commons.

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The 2014 ASECS conference takes place in Williamsburg, 20–22 March. Along with our annual luncheon and business meeting, HECAA will be represented by two panels chaired by Denise Baxter and Amy Freund and Jessica Fripp. In addition to these, a wide selection of sessions that might be relevant for HECAA members are also included below. A full list of panels (68 pages’ worth!) is available as a PDF file here.

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Anne Schroder New Scholar’s Session (Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture)

Denise Amy Baxter, 1304 Edgewood Court, Carrollton, TX 75007; denise.baxter@unt.edu

Named in honor of the late Anne Schroder, this seminar will feature outstanding new research by emerging scholars.

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Selfhood and Visual Representation in the Eighteenth Century (Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture)

Amy Freund, Texas Christian U. and Jessica Fripp, Parsons The New School for Design; a.freund@tcu.edu and frippj@newschool.edu

This panel will consider the relationship between the visual arts and new ideas of selfhood in the eighteenth century. Enlightenment-era debates about the nature of the self had profound effects on how people imagined the individual’s place in society, how gender, age, and racial difference were framed, how science and medicine conceived of the mind and body, and how emotions such as love and friendship were understood and expressed. Some scholars have approached the question of the eighteenth-century self in terms of the rise of possessive individualism, of secularization, and of consumer culture; others have pointed to the persistence and transformation of traditional hierarchies, of collective identities, and of mysticism and the irrational. We are seeking papers that examine the visual representation of the eighteenth-century self, both in portraiture and in other genres and modes, including (but not limited to) genre and history painting, architecture and the decorative arts, dress, and material culture. We encourage proposals that deal with the eighteenth-century self in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and with the transformation (or inapplicability) of Enlightenment ideas outside of Europe.

A larger list of potentially relevant sessions is available here»

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