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Modelling the Individual

Biography and Portrait in the Renaissance

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Edited by Karl A.E. Enenkel, Betsy de Jong-Crane and Peter Liebregts

One of the most noticeable features of the Renaissance is what Jacob Burckhardt called the rise of the individual - in politics and religion, in its social life and in the arts, and in the mentality of Renaissance man, with his inclination to explore, to invent and to make new discoveries. Yet this characteristic is also very puzzling to modern people, who see that although the categories of art which depict particular people increased to a spectacular degree in a period when biography and portrait painting were among the most popular genres, and autobiography began to emerge as a genre in itself and painters began to produce self-portraits, an interest individuals is not necessarily the same thing as the more recent interest in the purely personal aspects of individuals. Literary and artistic traditions, social and ideological backgrounds, and the motives for the production of literature have changed profoundly: Renaissance biography and autobiography, portraiture and self-portraiture have little to do with their modern counterparts. Therefore this book stresses that the Renaissance is not predominantly a mirror of modernity, but rather a period of stimulating difference or alterity. The contributors to this collection of essays aim to create a better understanding of Renaissance biographies and portraits through the analysis and reconstruction of the traditions, contexts, backgrounds and circumstances of their production.