Considering the Elizabethan Portrait Miniature as an Object of Devotion



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Considering the Elizabethan Portrait Miniature as an Object of Devotion

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SUBMITTED: 30/09/2015


Table of Contents


Considering the Elizabethan Portrait Miniature as an Object of Devotion 1

Introduction 4

The sudden popularity of the English portrait miniature in courtly Elizabethan society has been a subject of much discussion in art historical literature. Such studies commonly attribute the dominance of this new art form to the English Reformation, which separated England from Catholic Europe and subsequently isolated it from the development of high Renaissance art practices. However, claiming that the English miniature’s success was a result of artistic limitations does not necessarily suffice. Instead, the overall position of images and objects during the English Reformation must be analysed, not only in conjunction with artistic practices, but also with the social, political, and religious motivations of the English public. This study will focus on the English portrait miniature as an object in its social context, and will track its functional development, its materials, and the interactions it demanded in relation to the religious images and objects that had previously dominated English society. 4

The overall aim of this study is to argue that the popularity of the Elizabethan miniature and its functions derive from pre-Reformation attitudes towards devotional objects that were subsequently applied to ‘secular’ miniatures in newly Protestant English society. Chapter One will recapitulate the art historical studies on the English Renaissance miniature’s development. They will be considered alongside crucial yet fluctuating laws regarding images passed during the English Reformation. This will not only ascertain the key purposes of the miniature as a functioning object, but will also consider whether its origins determine its latent religious significance, and consequently its sixteenth-century popularity. Considering the simultaneous appearance of portrait miniatures and the disappearance of objects of devotion from Elizabethan everyday life in the 1560s, Chapter Two will suggest that these two art forms are not so easily distinguished as either sacred or secular. The three key functions of the portrait miniature will be considered alongside the tripartite Catholic justification of images to argue that in moving away from the cult of the saints and religious imagery, the miniature facilitated a new practice of monarchical devotion. In Chapter Three, primary accounts revealing how Elizabethans communicated with miniatures and their materials will be closely compared with the interaction of pre-Reformation religious images and objects, specifically highlighting the contemplative state that was achieved with the assistance of the portrait miniature. In considering the trajectories, the uses, and the forms of both Elizabethan portrait miniatures and English pre-Reformation devotional objects and images, this study will ascertain how Elizabethans transferred the conventions of devotion associated with pre-Reformation devotional objects to the new art form of portrait miniatures. 4


Chapter One: The English Portrait Miniature and The Reformation 5

The Development of the English Portrait Miniature 5

The English Reformation 9

The Popularity of the Elizabethan Portrait Miniature 12



Chapter Two: Comparing Function and Purpose 14

Images as a Didactic Tool: Imprese within Miniatures 14

Images as a Remembrance: Commemorative Miniatures 18

Images as an Aid to Devotion: Miniatures as an Aid to Devotion 21



Chapter Three: Materials and Interaction 25

Materials and Settings 25

Physical Interaction and the Manipulation of Objects 28

Conclusion: Sustaining Devotional Traditions 32

Bibliography 34

Primary Sources 34



Secondary Sources 35

Dalton, Karen C. C., ‘Art for the Sake of Dynasty: The Black Emperor in the Drake Jewel and Elizabethan Imperial Imagery’ in Erickson, Peter and Hulse, Clark (ed.) Early Modern Visual Culture: Representation, Race, and Empire in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000) pp.178–214 35

List of Figures 39

Figures 42



Introduction

The sudden popularity of the English portrait miniature in courtly Elizabethan society has been a subject of much discussion in art historical literature. Such studies commonly attribute the dominance of this new art form to the English Reformation, which separated England from Catholic Europe and subsequently isolated it from the development of high Renaissance art practices. However, claiming that the English miniature’s success was a result of artistic limitations does not necessarily suffice. Instead, the overall position of images and objects during the English Reformation must be analysed, not only in conjunction with artistic practices, but also with the social, political, and religious motivations of the English public. This study will focus on the English portrait miniature as an object in its social context, and will track its functional development, its materials, and the interactions it demanded in relation to the religious images and objects that had previously dominated English society.

The overall aim of this study is to argue that the popularity of the Elizabethan miniature and its functions derive from pre-Reformation attitudes towards devotional objects that were subsequently applied to ‘secular’ miniatures in newly Protestant English society. Chapter One will recapitulate the art historical studies on the English Renaissance miniature’s development. They will be considered alongside crucial yet fluctuating laws regarding images passed during the English Reformation. This will not only ascertain the key purposes of the miniature as a functioning object, but will also consider whether its origins determine its latent religious significance, and consequently its sixteenth-century popularity. Considering the simultaneous appearance of portrait miniatures and the disappearance of objects of devotion from Elizabethan everyday life in the 1560s, Chapter Two will suggest that these two art forms are not so easily distinguished as either sacred or secular. The three key functions of the portrait miniature will be considered alongside the tripartite Catholic justification of images to argue that in moving away from the cult of the saints and religious imagery, the miniature facilitated a new practice of monarchical devotion. In Chapter Three, primary accounts revealing how Elizabethans communicated with miniatures and their materials will be closely compared with the interaction of pre-Reformation religious images and objects, specifically highlighting the contemplative state that was achieved with the assistance of the portrait miniature. In considering the trajectories, the uses, and the forms of both Elizabethan portrait miniatures and English pre-Reformation devotional objects and images, this study will ascertain how Elizabethans transferred the conventions of devotion associated with pre-Reformation devotional objects to the new art form of portrait miniatures.



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