Connoisseurship—a bundle of practices combining a sense of the quality of works of art, the ability to attribute them to their makers, and to discriminate between originals, copies, and forgeries—is a contested term with a contested history. In this lecture, Peter Burke argues that the “invention” of connoisseurship happened gradually rather than suddenly and took place in the West neither, as has sometimes been argued, in the nineteenth century, nor—perhaps surprisingly—in the Renaissance, but in the seventeenth century when treatises on the subject begin to appear.

Peter Burke is a cultural and social historian who was born in 1937, studied at Oxford (1957–62) and taught at the Universities of Sussex (1962–78) and Cambridge (1979–2004). He is a Life Fellow of Emmanuel College. His publications have focused in turn on historiography, the Renaissance, popular culture, and the history of knowledge, including the distinctive roles of exiles and polymaths. His latest book is a history of ignorance and his next will be a history of connoisseurship.

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