Liksom en herdinna : Litterära teman i svenska kvinnoporträtt under 1700-talet
Sammanfattning: This thesis investigates how the class- and gender-related consumption of culture in the eighteenth century influenced Swedish female portraits from the period 1730–1800. A special interest is focused on the connections between portraiture and the literary world. The decisive driving force for the renewal and differentiation of eighteenth-century portraits of women is above all sought in novels and in dramatic art. The portraits are also considered in the light of a rich body of images that were part of the visual culture of the day – engravings, fashion images, book illustrations and genre paintings that can shed light on the portraits’ relationships to different literary themes. The popularity and impact of literary fiction reinforced a collective social identity within the elites of eighteenth-century Sweden and Europe. In portraiture, women manifested their participation in this social and cultural community by posing with novels on their laps or assuming the role of particular fictional characters. For centuries, established portrait conventions had placed the role of women in an allegorical and mythological sphere, but, without breaking this continuity, eighteenth-century portrait painting demonstrated a marked ability to be updated and enriched with new meaning as new literary genres emerged. This thesis explores such changes with reference to selected literary themes in Swedish portraits of the period. It studies the significance of books in the paintings and the image of the reading woman, as well as pastoral and orientalising themes in the allegorical and disguised portraits of the period. Portraits in which women assumed the role of a shepherdess or sultana likewise articulated an endeavour to identify with the heroines of literary fiction and the ideals with which they were associated. The conscious role play of such images defined the sitter both as an informed, contemporary consumer of culture and as a figure linked to the boundless realm of fiction.
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