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Hanging the Head:
Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth-Century England

Marcia Pointon

Type
Print
Publicaton Date
May 1993
Standard Number
9780300057386
Distributor
Yale University Press
Specifications
288 pages

England in the 18th century possessed a thriving portrait culture which was part of a network of visual communication that encompassed print-collecting, popular performance and figurative acts of speech. In this book, Marcia Pointon demonstrates how portraiture provided mechanisms both for constructing and accessing a national past and for controlling a present that appeared increasingly unruly. Through historical analyses of particular aspects of portrait representation - images of criminals, the fashions and rituals around the masculine culture of hair and wigs, the gendering of childhood in paintings like "Penelope Boothby" or "Pinkie" - Pointon establishes the ways in which portraiture signified 18th-century England. How "the head" was hung was determined by social rules of posture and decorum, by artistic convention and commerical practice, and literally by the ways in which patrons chose to hang in particular arrangements on walls - paintings that served ritual and symbolic as well as decorative functions.