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Antique-Work and Naked Boys: Animating the Tudor-Stuart Grotesque

From: Parergon
Volume 21, Number 1, January 2004
pp. 85-111 | 10.1353/pgn.2004.0024



Visual examples of the Tudor and Stuart grotesque (properly called 'antique-work') regularly feature a motif known as the 'naked boy'. Much English Renaissance antique-work remains as yet unsurveyed in scholarship and the naked boy has attracted very little attention. This article maps the Tudor-Stuart interrelationship of antique-work and naked boys, with particular focus upon the relevant work by Hans Holbein, Franz Cleyn, and Inigo Jones. The naked boy plays with imitative civility or Bacchic revelry in a reorganized cosmos of the grotesque. He signifies a wide range of early modern concerns, from humanist wit to artistic invention, philosophical scepticism to political ideology, and Bacchic Neoplatonism to Christian meditation.

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