Examining the body language of a certain period can reveal a lot about that period’s conventions and attitudes. Artworks are highly relevant sources to investigate this, but there is still an overall lack to art historical research wherein the body posture serves as mean outcome. This research focuses on the use of body language in early modern European art and more specific on how postures are used to communicate and reaffirm power. To answer this, the focus is placed on the different modes of representation according to social class. Uprightness and grace were vital in the early modern period as it was generally assumed that a good body configuration communicated one’s moral goodness. Firm stances were used to show goodness whereas the opposite, weak and unstable stances, were used to connote moral weakness. Books of manner, memoirs, treatises on acting, dancing, fencing or horseback riding, indicate how extremely important the physical presentation of the self was to the upper classes in the early modern period to secure their social status and to enhance social exclusion. The elegant Þostures of the rich were sometimes even contrasted with stooping postures of peasants in the same artwork. The premise of this project is to have a more comprehensive view on the use of body language in images, which is highly relevant today given the omnipresence of imagery in our society. We should understand how images work. Art historical research to body postures in earlier paintings can help to point at how postures were and still are used as symbolic attributes of power.
Long abstract of your presentation
Main author information