Book

Manhood, Marriage, and Mischief

Harry Berger

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780823225569
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240937 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823225569.001.0001
Manhood, Marriage, and Mischief

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A study of the theory and practice of seventeenth-century Dutch group portraits, this book offers an account of the genre's comic and ironic features, which it treats as comments on the social context of portrait sitters who are husbands and householders as well as members of civic and proto-military organizations. The introduction picks out anomalous touches with which Rembrandt problematizes standard group-portrait motifs in The Night Watch: a shooter who fires his musket into the company; two girls who appear to be moving through the company in the wrong direction; guardsmen who appear to be paying little or no attention to their leader's enthusiastic gesture of command. Were the patrons and sitters aware of or even complicit in staging the anomalies? If not, did the painter get away with a subversive parody of militia portrait conventions at the sitters' expense? Parts One and Two respond to these questions at several levels: first, by analyzing the aesthetic structure of group portraiture as a genre; second, by reviewing the conflicting accounts modern scholars give of the civic guard company as an institution; third, by marking the effect on civic guardsmen of a mercantile economy that relied heavily on wives and mothers to keep the home fires burning. Two phenomena persistently recur in the portraits under discussion: competitive posing and performance anxiety. Part Three studies these phenomena in portraits of married couples and families. Finally, Part Four examines them in The Night Watch in the light of the first three parts.

Keywords: seventeenth-century; Dutch group portraits; group portraiture; Rembrandt; The Night Watch; civic guard; married couples; families; parody

Book.  192 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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Table of Contents

Introduction: A Shot in the Dark in Manhood, Marriage, and Mischief

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Social Sources of Performance Anxiety in Manhood, Marriage, and Mischief

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The Preacher's Wife in Manhood, Marriage, and Mischief

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