During the seventeenth century, Dutch portraits were actively commissioned by corporate groups and by individuals from a range of economic and social classes. They became among the most important genres of painting. Not merely mimetic representations of their subjects, many of these works create a new dialogic relationship with the viewer. Ann Jensen Adams examines four portrait genres - individuals, the family, history portraits, and civic guards. She analyzes these works in relation to inherited visual traditions, contemporary art theory, changing cultural beliefs about the body, about sight, and the image itself, as well as to current events. Adams argues that as individuals became unmoored from traditional sources of identity, such as familial lineage, birthplace, and social class, portraits helped them to find security in a self-aware subjectivity and the new social structures that made possible the 'economic miracle' that has come to be known as the Dutch Golden Age.
• Examines the cultural role of portraits in producing new kind of subjectivity and sense of self, as well as community • Throws historical light on the important role of images, particularly portraits, in contemporary issues of national and personal identity • Well-illustrated with both well-known works as well as some rarely before considered
1. The cultural power of portraits: the market, interpersonal experience, and subjectivity; 2. Portraits of individuals: physiognomy, demeanor, and the representation of character; 3. Family portraits: the private arena and the social order; 4. The history portrait: comprehending self through historical narrative; 5. Civic guard portraits: personal friendships and the public sphere; 6. Portraits and the production of identity: transitional objects and potential spaces.