State Self-Depiction. Representation of Power in the Contemporary Age

International historiography has recently re-assessed the importance of visual sources in the construction of historical knowledge. Visual studies have shown that images do not simply reflect reality, but influence it. The research will be dedicated to the evolution of official portraiture of the highest state offices, in particular as regards the presidents of the Italian Republic and German chancellors (1948-2015). Official portraits of heads of state embody the values, ideas, and hopes of the respective nations, becoming icons, symbols, and effigies of authority.

The stylistic canons of post 1945 Italian portraiture appear more reserved than in the cultural traditions of other countries. The legacy of the Mussolini cult and the media overexposure of the head of government in the Fascist period played an important role in this respect. A similar trend can be observed in Germany where the need to establish distance from the Nazi legacy induced a more sober register in the construction of the public image of authority.

The research intends to reflect in particular on the photographic portrait as a privileged instrument of political communication, and an act that generates a public image and builds cultural models. It thus becomes a study of the forms of visualization of power and the visual politics of authority. The research will analyse both the contents of official images of the highest state office, as well as the practices of production, dissemination, and reception of these images.