Household Servants and Slaves

A Visual History, 1300–1700

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The first book-length study of household servants and slaves, exploring a visual history over 400 years and four continents

The first book-length study of both images of ordinary household workers and their material culture, Household Servants and Slaves: A Visual History, 1300–1700 covers four hundred years and four continents, facilitating a better understanding of the changes in service that occurred as Europe developed a monetary economy, global trade, and colonialism. Diane Wolfthal presents new interpretations of artists including the Limbourg brothers, Albrecht Dürer, Paolo Veronese, and Diego Velázquez, but also explores numerous long-neglected objects, including independent portraits of ordinary servants, servant dolls and their miniature cleaning utensils, and dummy boards, candlesticks, and tablestands in the form of servants and slaves.
Wolfthal analyzes the intersection of class, race, and gender while also interrogating the ideology of service, investigating both the material conditions of household workers’ lives and the immaterial qualities with which they were associated. If images repeatedly relegated servants to the background, then this book does the reverse: it foregrounds these figures in order to better understand the ideological and aesthetic functions that they served.

Diane Wolfthal is David and Caroline Minter Chair emerita in the Humanities and professor emerita of art history at Rice University.

ISBN: 9780300234879
Publication Date: April 26, 2022
272 pages, 6 4/6 x 9 1/2
170 color illus.
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