History of Art and Architecture

Saskia Beranek Colloquium

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 12:00pm

202 Frick Fine Arts Building


“Orange Portraiture as a Spatial Mechanism: Mapping the Court in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic”

Saskia Beranek

What does it mean to be ‘at court’?  It is simultaneously indicative of a web of family relationships, a highly evolved system of etiquette, and a real built environment that both creates and is created by encounters between the players. Most scholars of court studies focus on monarchies, where the sovereign body of the monarch creates a central nexus around which all others orbit.  But what about the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, where a princely court co-existed with, and was even subject to, a representational system of government in which sovereignty was actually vested?  How did one know they were ‘at court’ if there was no sovereign body at the center?  Drawing on Lefebvre’s conception of social space and ideas of mobility and exchange, this talk will argue for a radical, decentralized understanding of court space in the seventeenth century, where entry into the court space was indicated through the deliberate display of portraits. This both recasts ideas about space and reinvigorates the kind of cultural work that portraits can do. Based in a case study in my own research, I also invite discussion about how social spaces are produced and maintained in contexts ranging from the domestic to the imperial.