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Changing Images of Childhood: The Children’s Portrait in Netherlandish Art and Its Influence

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Chapter Summary

In 2007, an exhibition entitled "The changing face of childhood: British children's portraits and their influence in Europe" took place at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. The point of departure was the Portrait of the Children of Lord George Cavendish by Thomas Lawrence, which had been acquired for the Städel collection in 2001. This depiction is characterized by the fact that the children are shown in completely natural surroundings and unaccompanied by adults. Many depictions of children were directed quite purposively toward adults, as is illustrated by pictorial themes showing children and adults together. They are representative of the notion that bad behaviour on the part of children could be attributed either to faulty upbringing or to the negative example set by the elders. In Netherlandish genre painting, the pictorial themes served to illustrate these negative influences, the slovenly household and the excesses practiced at family celebrations.

Keywords: British children's portraits; changing face of childhood; Europe; Lord George Cavendish; Netherlandish genre painting; Städel Museum; Thomas Lawrence



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