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“A Hankering for Public Fame”: Authorship, Celebrity, and the Portrait Bust in 18th-Century Britain

Malcolm Baker, distinguished professor, department of the history of art, University of California, Riverside. In mid-18th-century Britain, the portrait bust was being given a new prominence rivaling the painted portrait as a way of representing not only the nobility, but also those “of the middling sort.” In this lecture recorded on October 18, 2015, Malcolm Baker looks at this phenomenon in relationship to the emergence of what we would today see as a celebrity culture. The bust’s potential as a register of public fame was especially exploited by writers—themselves increasingly seen as celebrities—at a time when notions of authorship were shifting.