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


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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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During the second half of the seventeenth century there was a substantial shift in the manner in which envoys believed it was necessary to live while they were abroad, evidenced through the greater quantities of personal possessions which they took with them and an increasing desire to identify with the local elite by subscribing to international court fashions in their private as well as professional lives. Resident diplomats had more time to imbibe the cultural influences around them and many used the opportunity to purchase, commission, and copy local luxury goods, paintings, architecture, and garden design while they were abroad. Later Stuart diplomats well understood the rhetorical and social use of luxury objects. In the struggle for distinction that characterized the domestic political environment they knew that the possession of certain objects – and the requisite knowledge of their appropriate consumption – not only evidenced elite status but simultaneously differentiated them from other members of the elite. A political agenda informed their aesthetic and cultural choices and their patronage was far from random.

Keywords: court fashions; diplomats; cultural influences; luxury goods; paintings; architecture; distinction; consumption; elite; patronage

Chapter.  2271 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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