For years, art historian Ana Howie had been intrigued by Anthony van Dyck’s striking 1632 portrait of Italian noblewoman Elena Grimaldi Cattaneo—and was not satisfied with scholarly understandings of the work.
“It is an incredibly powerful painting to see in real life as it is over life-size, and I felt there was so much more to say about its composition, messaging and links to the histories of Genoa and the Atlantic World,” Howie said. “Moreover, the portrait perfectly encapsulates the threads that my research weaves together.”
Howie, assistant professor of Renaissance, Baroque and early modern art in the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies, used her expertise in cultures of dressing, European imperialism and artistic networks to uncover a story tying Genoa’s elite families to globalized material trade—and Atlantic and Mediterranean slavery.
“Materializing the Global: Textiles, Color, and Race in a Genoese Portrait by Anthony van Dyck” is published in Renaissance Quarterly.
“Works like ‘The Portrait of Elena Grimaldi Cattaneo’ and the goods they portray cannot be divorced from the human implications of early modern material culture,” Howie said.
Ana Howie, Materializing the Global: Textiles, Color, and Race in a Genoese Portrait by Anthony van Dyck, Renaissance Quarterly (2023). DOI: 10.1017/rqx.2023.203
Clothing is key: Van Dyck portrait captures ‘moment in the history of race-making’ (2023, October 12)
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The myth goes that British monarchs and art don’t mix. The bills run up by Charles I, who bought more than 1,500 paintings, contributed to him losing his head. On the other hand, Queen Victoria’s fondness for having her pets painted by Landseer rarely troubled the privy purse, and Queen Elizabeth II, it is said, was pleased to buy reasonably priced pictures if they had horses in them.
By this reckoning, the omens are not good for our new king. Charles loves art, and isn’t afraid to pay for it. He has strong opinions on how it should be made and displayed. In 2005 he founded the reactionary-sounding School of Traditional Arts, and there was the “monstrous carbuncle” affair over a competition design for an intended new wing at the National Gallery in 1984. And he’s an artist himself—prints of his watercolours are sold in the Buckingham Palace shop.
But my prediction is that Charles III will end the myth for good. Here, at the risk of sounding like an obsequious Tudor courtier, I admit a bias; I’m a big fan. I think he single-handedly saved the National Gallery from itself, of which it seems to have a recurring need. I even like his watercolours. I can’t paint, but if I could, I’d paint like the king: landscapes with nobody in them. In fact, I think we can safely say Charles will be the most accomplished artist yet to take the throne. Though I concede the bar is low.
Coronations are a good moment to assess a reign’s artistic direction of travel. Cecil Beaton’s technicolour photograph of the late Queen in her coronation robes comes to mind more easily than the footage of the event itself.