The face of the city

Civic portraiture and civic identity in early modern England

By Robert Tittler

The face of the city

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8907-7
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £14.99
  • Published Date: January 2013
  • BIC Category: Art History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Portraits in art, History of art, History & Archaeology, European history, c 1500 onwards to present day, ART / Subjects & Themes / Portraits, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, The arts / History of art & design styles: c 1600 to c 1800, The arts / Portraits in art, Humanities / British & Irish history, Humanities / Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700, 18th century, c 1700 to c 1799, 17th century, c 1600 to c 1699
  • Series: Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain


Our conventional understanding of English portraiture from the age of Holbein and Henry VIII on to Reubens, VanDyck and Charles I clings to the mainstream images of royalty and aristocracy and to the succession of known practitioners of 'Renaissance' portraiture.

In almost every respect, the 'civic' portraits examined here stand in sharp contrast to these traditional narratives. Depicting mayors and aldermen, livery company masters, school and college heads, they were meant to be read as statements about the civic leaders and civic institutions rather than about the sitters in their own right. Displayed in civic premises rather than country homes, exemplifying civic rather than personal virtues, and usually commissioned by institutions rather than their sitters, they have yet to be considered as a type of their own, or in their appropriate social and political context.

This fascinating work will appeal to both art historians and historians of early modern Britain.


1. The formation of English portrait traditions
2. The evidence: Patrons and venues
3. Painters
4. Timing and circumstances
5. Content and meaning
6. Audience and display
7. Conclusion
A. Civic portraits painted or acquired, 1500-1640
B. The cost of paintings, 1500-1640


Robert Tittler is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, Montreal

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