Musings about the Readings in S. West on the different roles Portraiture fulfills….
1. In what ways can a portrait affirm or challenge social hierarchies? Think of specific examples of portraits that demonstrate these divergent phenomena.
2. What is the underlying message of most royal portraits?
3. How is the burgeoning Middle Class depicted in portraiture? Why do you think that portraits of powerful people had “affinities with the moral, elevated qualities of history paintings,” and those of the middle classes were allied to scenes of everyday life?
4. What in your opinion accounts for the status of portraiture in the history of art?
5. How was the genius viewed in society? How was he depicted in art?
6. What does the advent of photography do for the celebrity?
7. How is the “other” depicted in portraiture? Remember Egypt?
8. How does group portraiture change the social equation? What are the ways in which group identity was conceived and conveyed?
9. What types of group portraits are there?
10. What are some of the issues that underlie the portrayal of families in portraits? How does the family portrait paradigm shift over time?
11. Civic groups such as guilds, militia, confraternities, and charities often commissioned portraits that expressed their collective identity. Though sharing an ideological bond, the individuals in these groups betray the complex personal, public, and psychological dimensions of say, a family. How did painters come to terms with such a demanding commission?
12. Why is Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” such a visual coup?
13. What are the special demands posed by portraits of artists’ groups? Is it possible for a group portrait to express an ideal as compellingly as an individual portrait may?