Call for Papers

Portraiture: Mobilization and Consolidation

Marburg, June 23-25, 2011

Organizers: Eva Krems, Institute of Art History, University of Marburg ( Sigrid Ruby, Institute of Art History, University of Giessen (

The conference shall address a pivotal issue of Early Modern portraiture: Its importance as a means of social interaction, differentiated according to usage and function, which in turn determine the visual appearance and material condition of the portrait(s) in question.

Portraits generate images of individuals and groups, they consolidate social hierarchies, bring order to cultural and political networks, and they construct personal as well as collective pasts. These are crucial aspects of Early Modern portraiture or – as we call it – ‘portrait culture’. Our conference does not focus on problems of the genre that are usually examined: Neither will questions of likeness be in the foreground, nor should isolated portraits be discussed in terms of their visual appearance only. Instead, we adopt a decidedly pragmatic perspective, which looks at portraiture as a social practice with distinct performative features. In the Early Modern period, an enormous presence and increasing diversification of portraits can be observed. Considering these historically new developments, the conference seeks to discuss the spatial positioning and social addressing of the genre, whose functionality and modes of use depend heavily on its genuine mobility and flexibility. The circumstances of portrait production, the material contexts of the perception and application of portraits as well as the means of their dissemination, circulation and distribution have to be taken in mind, when questioning the performative potentiality und propositions of the genre. To approximate the issues in question we have chosen ‘mobilization’ and ‘consolidation’ as complementary leitmotifs: Aspects of consolidation can be detected in Early Modern accumulations of portraits, which are more or less classified in the sense of being either portrait collections or heaps of images. Manifold effects of mobilization can be observed in the wake of reproduction, copying, as well as image transfers from one medium to the other. With consolidation and mobilization we hope to have opened up an inspiring agenda that offers multiple points of contact for interdisciplinary studies. These may focus on, e.g., portrait galleries, portrait books, series and cycles of portraits, miniature portraits, or genealogical representations, as well as on interactive and inter-media processes such as portrait exchange and portrait transfer. To account for the diversity of media involved in Early Modern portraiture, we also invite papers that deal with precious objects (e.g., amulets with portraits, miniature portraits beset with gemstones) and all kinds of craftwork (e.g., textiles, medals, seals) as well as with printed portraits. One outcome of the  conference could be the delineation of traits that characterize courtly (vs. civic), secular (vs. sacred), or male (vs. female) kinds of ‘portrait culture’.

In the Summer of 2009 a new project was initiated at the Deutsche Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte – Bildarchiv Foto Marburg in cooperation with seven public institutions (museums and libraries in Germany and Austria): ‘Digitaler Porträtindex druckgraphischer Bildnisse der Frühen Neuzeit’ (‘Digital Index of Printed Portraits of the Early Modern Period’) []. It is financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Germany’s largest research funding organization, and may serve as one starting point or point of reference for the conference.

Abstracts (1-2 pages) may be sent to the following addresses until December 15th, 2010: OR