The Art Patronage and Court Influence 1660–1714 doctoral project will investigate and analyse courtier art patronage from 1660 to 1714, and interrogate the still prevailing scholarly view that by 1714 the court had declined as a sphere of cultural influence.
Until recently, it has been the supposition that by 1714 the court had waned as a vital force in politics and cultural influence. Instead of the court being the leader in terms of fashion and art patronage, to which others aspired, new avenues opened up as alternatives, notably with the growth of the public sphere. Now, however, new research has shown that this appraisal is unduly negative. Queen Anne’s court, and those of her successors, were in fact far more culturally active and aware than has been credited, and throughout the period the court remained the location where political networks might be established and political and social status reinforced.
While new research has focused on individual monarchs, the collecting and commissioning activities of those attending court have been largely neglected by scholars, leaving significant gaps in our knowledge and understanding. This project will aim to address this gap. The successful candidate will be encouraged to explore, through a series of case studies, the collecting and commissioning activities of significant individuals that speak to questions concerning court culture. The individuals could be female and male courtiers, great aristocrats, influential royal household officers and politicians, as well as figures seemingly beyond the court such as wealthy City merchants and financiers. Relevant sources such as inventories, accounts, diaries and letters, as well as the art itself in country house collections, will be used to address the central question – whether, or the extent to which, the court remained a relevant source of inspiration and aspiration; whether alternative art patronage networks opened; and the possible types of interaction between such networks.
The student will have scope to develop their interests widely within the parameters suggested above. More specifically, the project will develop alongside an exhibition English Baroque 1660–1714 in preparation at Tate Britain. The student will assist in the development of this exhibition. It is expected that the student’s contribution will include developing case studies which provide evidence to underpin and enhance our understanding of particular aspects of the show and its arguments; presenting research as part of Tate’s talks and tours; as well as other forms of engagement. In addition, it is also expected that the student will research and write summary texts on relevant artworks in Tate’s collection for Tate’s website following internal guidelines. This will provide the student with early opportunities to publish research and gain experience in writing for the public and specialists.