Byron, Sully, and the Power of Portraiture
Since the early nineteenth century, Byron has fascinated people of all political and social stripes in Britain, Europe, America, and around the world. This book focuses on the history and cultural significance for Federal America of Thomas Sully's Byron, which has never before been the subject of scholarly study. The author discusses the work within the broad context of British and American portraiture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, giving the fullest account to date of Sully's career and his relation to English influences and to figures prominent in the early-nineteenth-century American imagination, among them, Washington, Fanny Kemble, Lafayette, Joseph Bonaparte, and Nicholas Biddle. Byron is discussed as an icon of the young American Republic whose Jubilee year coincided with Sully's initial work on the poet's portrait. Later chapters offer a close reading of the portrait, arguing that Sully has given a visual interpretation truly worthy of his celebrated, controversial, and famously handsome subject.
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