Right princely art : the portraits of Ottheinrich

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Kirch, Miriam Hall, 1957-

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A scholarly cliché has it that the modern art of portraiture was born in the Renaissance, but scholars have found these portraits difficult to discuss objectively. That difficulty is compounded in the case of Renaissance Germany, where scholarly focus has been on the bourgeoisie. Princely portraiture, recognized as an important subgenre, has been virtually ignored except insofar as it reveals Lutheran attitudes and goals. This dissertation rectifies that problem by examining the portraits of one prince, Ottheinrich (1502-59), elector Palatine from 1556. Rather than ask what kind of person Ottheinrich’s portraits show, the dissertation looks at questions of what a portrait meant in sixteenth-century Germany, how it could be presented, and to what uses it could be put. The dissertation opens with Ottheinrich’s biography and art patronage, asking why a minor historical figure needed dozens of portraits in multiple media over his entire adult life. Ottheinrich’s reasons for advertising himself were urgent, having to do with his struggle to become elector Palatine in the face of considerable opposition. The second chapter of the dissertation places Ottheinrich’s likenesses in the context of sixteenth-century German portraiture, examining both images and unusually rich documentary sources to determine what kinds of portraits were available and what expectations people brought to them. It divides images of Ottheinrich into categories. The themes and messages of the portraits were tied to the varying media Ottheinrich’s artists used. Chapter three investigates his princely portraits in a Judgment of Paris (Berlin), tapestries (Neuburg an der Donau) and on bookbindings. Chapter four looks at Ottheinrich’s Christian images, examining pilgrimage tapestries (Munich and Neuburg an der Donau), bookbindings, and a medal struck by Ludwig Neufahrer. Chapter five deals with Ottheinrich’s genealogical and family images and focuses on tapestries (Munich) and the heraldry on portrait medals. The dissertation concludes that Renaissance Germany offered a wide variety of media, each with different advantages, that Ottheinrich could exploit to spread his image. The possibilities for expression were also great, and Ottheinrich used well-known formulas to make sure that educated, elite viewers of his likenesses would understand the nuances of each image.




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