Informed Choices

Helen Jacobsen

in Luxury and Power

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199693757
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731976 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

Informed Choices

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Ralph Montagu, later first duke of Montagu, served as ambassador to the court of Louis XIV on two occasions and, at a time when French taste was gaining ground across Europe amongst the aristocratic and political elites, he appears as one of its most enthusiastic supporters. His material legacy – including Boughton House with its extraordinary collection of seventeenth-century decorative art and paintings, furniture, and textiles – has prompted much interest from art historians who have suggested that he was dazzled by the French court and became a leader of the new taste on his return to England. This chapter looks beyond the extant material evidence and considers in more detail his political career, which was inextricably bound up with his social and cultural life, and tries to address what lay behind his lavish consumption. It shows that Montagu’s artistic patronage was politically inspired, a way of manipulating his environment; it was driven by motives of comfort, wealth, and, above all, personal and familial aggrandizement.

Keywords: French taste; decorative art; painting; consumption; artistic patronage; furniture; textiles; political career

Chapter.  9417 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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