The Birth of the Middle Class and the Rise of Painting in Early Modern Flanders


ACLS Fellowship Program


History of Art


This project asserts the marginal status of painting within the spectrum of luxury goods consumed by the Burgundian court in the fifteenth century, juxtaposing this historical circumstance with the demonstrable proliferation of painting in the early sixteenth century. It illuminates the radical transformation in both the form and content of painting in this period by investigating the relationship between medium, social function, and class identity. This study argues that the nascent middle class seized upon painting as a means to articulate its identity by appropriating the representational strategies of the aristocracy; in so doing, they adapted painting for the representation of the moralized narratives produced within the burgeoning discourse of humanism.