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Title: 'Hung round with the Helmets, Breast-Plates, and Swords of our Ancestors’: Allusions to Chivalry in Eighteenth-Century Gothicism?
Author(s): Lindfield, Peter
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Editor(s): Stevenson, K
Gribling, B
Citation: Lindfield P (2016) 'Hung round with the Helmets, Breast-Plates, and Swords of our Ancestors’: Allusions to Chivalry in Eighteenth-Century Gothicism?. In: Stevenson K & Gribling B (eds.) Chivalry and the Vision of the Medieval Past. Medievalism. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, p. 61–98.
Issue Date: 2016
Date Deposited: 19-Aug-2016
Series/Report no.: Medievalism
Abstract: First paragraph: Gothic architecture largely fell out of favour with architects and those commissioning architectural works in seventeenth-century Britain. It was supplanted by Classicism, and this aesthetic preference continued into the eighteenth century. However, the Gothic style remained a monument to Britain’s militaristic, medieval and chivalric past, as indicated by the passage above from 1739 in the Gentleman’s Magazine. The Gothic Revival in Georgian Britain was linked with social, political and religious history, and was charged with various connected meanings, including nationalism, dynastic heritage, political freedom, barbarism and rebellion. It was also intimately connected with chivalry’s visual language of heraldry, as well as its historic architecture, based, in part, upon St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and Henry VII’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey, both of which were and remain the chapels for the Most Noble Order of the Garter (founded by Edward III in 1348) and the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (founded by George I in 1725) respectively. However, the Gothic Revival’s connection with the ideas, associations and visual language of chivalry is more complex, especially because it jostles with the Revival’s other connotations that centre upon barbarity and the debasement of Roman (Classical) architecture. Despite this complexity, a number of important Gothic Revival houses and interiors were erected and created in eighteenth-century Britain. These demonstrate a palpable interest in and visual representation of the architecture, motifs, figures and visual language of chivalry. The extent to which Gothic’s chivalric overtone was adopted into mainstream fashionable taste in this period is explored here through the common use of architectural motifs and heraldic imagery, concentrating especially on furniture. This essay explores the tensions between Classicism and the Gothic, assesses the place of chivalry in the eighteenth-century Gothic Revival, and questions how chivalric overtones were incorporated into fashionable consumption
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