Degree Name

BA

Department

Comparative Arts and Letters

College

Humanities

Publication Date

2020-03-24

First Faculty Advisor

Dr. Heather Belnap

First Faculty Reader

Dr. James Swensen

Honors Coordinator

Dr. Martha Peacock

Keywords

18th century, Society of Dilettanti, gender studies, masculinity, British art, the Grand Tour

Abstract

Ideal masculine conduct for aristocratic and bourgeois circles of the British 18th century entailed polite restraint, and much of the scholarly discussion on 18th century British masculinity treats politeness and how it was taught and modeled. The Society of Dilettanti, a British antiquarian society whose early members met on the Grand Tour, seemed to flout polite ideals in their portraits by George Knapton, executed from 1740-1749. With consideration to expanding dialogue on the nature of ideal masculine conduct in the 18th century, this paper asserts that the portraits create, through depictions of alcoholic ritual and interaction with the viewer, a sense of close friendship amongst the Dilettanti, allowing for the paintings’ occasional bibulousness and bawdiness. Additionally, by painting the early Dilettanti in masquerade costume, George Knapton created a carnivalesque ethos that reinforced the relationship of the sitters to their Grand Tours, to each other, and to their larger aims as a club. The paintings, though undoubtedly offensive to some, created a symposium-like atmosphere that would demonstrate the witty, yet refined British masculinity of the Society of Dilettanti.

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