Thomas Tolley
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Visual Culture
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The visual arts played a part in providing the gentry with an identity. In England, unlike in some Continental countries, there existed strong suspicions of the value of visual creativity, which arguably inhibited the development of a system of artistic patronage based on mutual respect between artist and patron. Since Dominicans frequently acted as spiritual advisers to prominent gentry the philosophy played a part in interpreting their visual experiences as well. The concern gentry showed with positioning their tombs is as informative in assessing their visual alertness as their instructions for design and materials. As the more prosperous merchants were permitted to adopt the trappings of the gentry, it may be argued that a change took place in attitudes to visual culture. From the survey of late medieval visual culture it should be clear that issues of identity and appearance were fundamental for the English gentry.

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