This thesis examines the taste for sets of easel portraits in England during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James VI and I. Looking primarily at sets of historical figures, particularly English kings and queens, the thesis aims to assess the extent of the fashion and identify the audience for such sets. The material qualities of the paintings are discussed and the methods of production, as well as the function and meaning of specific sets. The first chapter examines the evidence for the earliest portrait sets of this type in England and suggests that innovations in art and architecture at Court had a significant influence on the development of the genre. The earliest evidence for portrait sets in aristocratic collections is examined and specific examples of early known sets are discussed. The second and third chapters look at the intellectual context in which the fashion for portrait sets emerged. It is suggested that humanist ideas about the display of portraiture and related artistic trends on the continent contributed to the emerging demand for this type of painting in England. It is argued that the widespread interest in history, genealogy and antiquarianism at this time led to a demand for images of historical figures. In addition, it is suggested that portrait sets were often used to communicate messages of legitimacy and authority by implying that a family or institution had an illustrious and lengthy lineage. The final two chapters discuss known portrait sets in detail and include case studies of specific sets. The fourth chapter focuses on sets of English kings and queens and the fifth chapter on sets of illustrious figures drawn from various categories of famous men and women. The latter includes case studies of a set formerly at Weston, Warwickshire and a set at Knole, Kent.
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