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Portraits served as a form of social media in the Renaissance. Prominent individuals commissioned portraits to convey their accomplishments and relationships, not merely their images. Political and church leaders, in particular, used the images to bolster their role, but these commissioned works entailed risks, importantly including risks to reputation. A portrait could be unflattering or unrecognizable. It could also be judged to be indecorous, especially if the portrait was perceived as an attempt to elevate an individual above his or her station.


Nelson, Jonathan K., and Richard Zeckhauser. "Risky Business: Commissioning Portraits in Renaissance Italy." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP19-024, July 2019.