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Functions of the comic in seventeenth-century Dutch art

Kelly, Anthony; (2007) Functions of the comic in seventeenth-century Dutch art. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis examines how comic images are used in Dutch Golden Age art. No comprehensive study of this subject exists, in spite of the fact that comic themes and tropes are widely used by Dutch artists, as part of a culture which enjoyed but also valued humour for its rhetorical, instructional and therapeutic utility. Referring to recent scholarly interest in the field of comic culture, and using an interdisciplinary approach combined with iconographic analysis, comic elements in the images are examined in the context of wider comic culture including comedy, farce, rogue literature and joke books, and in relation to the tastes and the ideology of the burgher class, as well as to contemporary notions of wit or geestigheid in art. These investigations are related to major theories of the comic. Particular areas examined are the comic representation of peasants, merry companies, stereotypical characters and situations, and the archetypal relationship of the trickster and the dupe which was the essence of farce. This reveals the strength of traditional tropes and stereotypes involving folly, deception and concealment, modernised to provide a pictorial 'comedy of manners' for the burgher class, who also purchased comic images evoking differentiation and social exclusion. One conclusion is that comic themes in Dutch art should be considered within the long sixteenth century. Another is the value of the application to paintings of a social and anthropological theory of the comic as expression of symbolic social structure, experienced through behaviour codes, which sees it as always significant, being a means of communication within a group or culture, and never value-free even when no didacticism is apparent. This can help to illuminate important art-historical debates such as those involving the relationship between amusement and instruction, meaning and ambiguity, and questions of reception and spectatorship.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Functions of the comic in seventeenth-century Dutch art
Identifier: PQ ETD:594434
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History of Art
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1446440
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