In this, the first comprehensive study of post-Reformation provincial English portraiture, Robert Tittler investigates the growing affinity for secular portraiture in Tudor and early Stuart England, a cultural and social phenomenon which can be said to have produced a 'public' for that genre.
He breaks new ground in placing portrait patronage and production in this era in the broad social and cultural context of post-Reformation England, and in distinguishing betweennative English provincial portraiture, which was often highly vernacular, and foreign-influenced portraiture of the court and metropolis, which tended towards the formal and 'polite'. Tittler describes the burgeoning public for portraiture of this era as more than the familiar court-and-London based presence, but rather as a phenomenon which was surprisingly widespread, both socially and geographically, throughout the realm.
He suggests that provincial portraiture differed from the 'mainstream', cosmopolitan portraiture of the day in its workmanship, materials, inspirations, and even vocabulary, showing how its native English roots continued to guide its production. Innovative chapters consider the aims and vocabulary of English provincial portraiture, the relationship of portraiture and heraldry, the painter's occupation in provincial (as opposed to metropolitan) England, and the contrasting availability of materials and training in both provincial and metropolitanareas.
The work as a whole contributes to both art history and social history: it speaks to admirers and collectors of painting as well as to curators and academics.