Humour and Humilitas: Wall Painting in the Palaces and Castles of Henry III of England (r: 1216-1272)

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Whitehead, Meaghan
Henry III , Patronage , Medieval Art , Wall Painting , Kingship , England
This dissertation examines Henry III of England’s residential wall painting patronage, its relationship to the king’s unique views of kingship, and the role of wall painting in the fashioning of thirteenth-century Plantagenet court culture. I consider the presence of humour, humility, sanctimony, and devotion in Henry III’s ideals of kingship and as demonstrated through repeated iconographies in the king’s halls. I propose new avenues of inquiry and interpretation, rather than submitting a comprehensive survey of Henry III’s artistic and architectural patronage. This dissertation begins with an examination of the documentary, architectural, archaeological, and antiquarian evidence of Henry III’s wall painting commissions (Chapter 2), followed by an in-depth discussion of the methodological approaches and analyses explored throughout (Chapter 3). Three iconographical case study chapters are at the core of this dissertation, each examining a favoured narrative or allegory. The first (Chapter 4) concerns Henry III’s commission of the parable of Dives and Lazarus in his great halls at the castles of Ludgershall, Guildford, and Northampton. The second (Chapter 5) reviews the narrative painting of the Dialogue of Solomon and Marcolf in the lesser hall at Westminster Palace. The third (Chapter 6) is a study of Henry III’s choice of painting the Wheel of Fortune in the great hall at Winchester Castle and the king’s hall at Clarendon Palace. These chapters highlight the subversive nature of Henry III’s wall painting commissions as they relate to the playful reversal of social hierarchies and a deviation from traditional models of kingship.
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