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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter poses the question: ‘What did it mean to be a patron or collector of art in Shakespeare’s England?’ To that end, it seeks, first, to shed light on some of the challenges inherent in any attempt to reconstruct—at a remove of nearly 500 years—patterns of early modern art collecting and patronage; and second, to trace some of the principal shifts in the aesthetic and cultural landscape of England from c.1564 to c.1616. As this essay demonstrates, Shakespeare’s England was a world in flux, in which native, vernacular objects, ideas, and vocabulary sat cheek by jowl with foreign, imported artefacts, attitudes, and terminology. Moreover, Shakespeare’s writings, and those of some of his contemporaries, both reflect and help to illuminate the complex interaction between the traditional and the novel characteristic of Elizabethan and early Jacobean visual culture—enabling us, like Hamlet, to hold a ‘mirror up to nature’ (3.2.22).

Keywords: art, painting, sculpture, patronage, collecting, display

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