Painted Portraits: The YouTube of the Fifteenth Century

German media tycoon and art historian Hubert Burda has a fascinating essay titled “How People See Themselves,” about the history of portraiture and what it has meant to be able to visually represent oneself to the rest of the world:

Nowadays anyone who wants to draw attention to themselves can. The Internet enables us to become multi-media media producers. Since it started up a year ago, over 50 million people have already uploaded personal short videos onto the video platform The portrait which enabled the new middle-classes of the 15th century, following their rise in status, to fulfill their desire for representation, has experienced many changes over the centuries.

The capitalist impulse which has made services like YouTube possible has, of course, done what countless other technologies have done in the past – taken the priviledges of the wealthy and powerful and made them available to all. And you don’t have to be a European billionaire to know that that’s a good thing.

Link from Arts & Letters Daily.