Ben Jonson was the best-informed English dramatist of his time on the visual arts, and in several of his works he alludes to specific pictures and artists. His admiration for the skills of visual artists leads him to exclaim hyperbolically “Picture is the invention of heaven” (Discoveries). At the same time, in several of his texts, Jonson belittles the visual arts in favour of poetry. The culmination of this denigration of the visual is his disdainful poem An Expostulation with Inigo Jones, in which he derides Jones’s scenery painting. This essay argues that Jonson’s attacks on the visual arts are not the outcome of a mere professional quarrel, but reflect a deeper engagement with classical and Renaissance ideas on mimesis, which has significant implications for his own dramatic practice.

“Picture is the invention of heaven”: Ben Jonson and the Paradox of the Visual

Keir Douglas Elam
2019

Abstract

Ben Jonson was the best-informed English dramatist of his time on the visual arts, and in several of his works he alludes to specific pictures and artists. His admiration for the skills of visual artists leads him to exclaim hyperbolically “Picture is the invention of heaven” (Discoveries). At the same time, in several of his texts, Jonson belittles the visual arts in favour of poetry. The culmination of this denigration of the visual is his disdainful poem An Expostulation with Inigo Jones, in which he derides Jones’s scenery painting. This essay argues that Jonson’s attacks on the visual arts are not the outcome of a mere professional quarrel, but reflect a deeper engagement with classical and Renaissance ideas on mimesis, which has significant implications for his own dramatic practice.
The Art of Picturing in Early Modern English Literature
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Keir Douglas Elam
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/739800
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