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Bloodlines: Re-Framing Artists’ Families in the Early Modern Period

Posted By Francesco Freddolini, Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Family ties in early modern art history were ubiquitous, and crucial to establish career patterns. Although many artists received their training and conducted their activity within the context of a family, art historians have often examined individual families as isolated case studies. Especially in the field of Western art, families of artists such as the Della Robbia, Vecellio, Brueghel, Teniers, and many others, have been investigated in depth, but ultimately regarded as enclosed entities. Few scholars, in recent years (e.g. Koenraad Brosens, Leen Kelchetmans, and Katlijne Van der Stighelen on the Low Countries), have tackled the topic of the artists’ families as a field of inquiry in its own right, exploring its socio-economic values and the networks it established.

This panel aims to switch the focus from the micro-histories of individual families, to broader questions related to the intersection between family as a social institution and art practice in the early modern period. When we investigate families of artists as families—nodes of networks where the career of an individual was often part of broader group objectives—relevant questions arise: what strategies did inform career trajectories, and decisions? How did family politics contribute to the commercial success of artists? Which economic aspects regulated the operational routine of a family of artists? Did family members work independently, or did they contribute to common household objectives, especially in terms of financial achievements and social affirmation?

Furthermore, we propose to investigate the differences, similarities, and overlaps between family and workshop, and examine how training differed in a family, compared to a standard workshop, how family relations and networks influenced the organization of the work, and to what extent the roles within the household group tallied with the distribution of specific competences and responsibilities within the workshop.

We also aim to broaden the view and investigate the expansion of families, in relation to the workshop, for example through the adoption of pupils. Further topics could include: how family networks defined material and visual legacies (models, drawings), to be transferred to the offspring; how such networks influenced style, practice, transmission of knowledge and competences; how parents promoted the careers of their descendants; whether families of artists were different from families specialized in other businesses.

We invite papers from across disciplines that explore families of artists by focusing especially, but not exclusively, on the socio-economic aspects of their history, the mechanics of workshop organization, production system, and career development. We encourage, in particular, papers that cast light on lesser-known names, as well as on non-European contexts. Case studies as well as more theoretically driven papers are welcome.

Further topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Families of artists, compared to families in other trades/professions

  • Families of artists in non-European contexts

  • Family alliances

  • Adoptive sons vs. bloodline

  • Gender relationships

  • Professional relations and kinship relations: advantage or problem?

Please submit your paper proposals to Francesco Freddolini, Luther College, University of Regina ( and Giorgio Tagliaferro, University of Warwick ( by June 2, 2017. Proposal should include:

  • Name, affiliation, email address

  • Paper title (max. 15 words)

  • Abstract (max. 150 words)

  • Keywords

  • C.V. (max. 300 words; prose bios will not be accepted)

Tags:  arists' families  art market  artistic practice  family history  socio-economic history  workshop 

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