The Italian Renaissance: Discuss among yourselves!

1.  What were the ingredients in Bologna that made it so conducive to women artists? Did Caterina Vigri have to become a nun….?

2.  Properzia de’ Rossi’s career is amazing.  What do you think about the image of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife from c. 1520?

3.  Think about the career of Lavinia Fontana in light of that of Sofonisba Anguissola.  What parallels do you see?  What divergences?  Consider the commemorative medal struck by the city for her and comment upon the image and its significance.

4.  How does Elisabetta Sirani fit into the picture of Renaissance painters and what is striking about the subjects she portrayed?

5. Fede Galizia is noted in particular for her contribution to the genre of still life.  Consider her work and compare it to the advances made by Giovanna Garzoni in this realm.

6.  Make way for Artemesia!!!

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Personal Worship, Gender, and the Devotional Portrait Diptych

Just as one ponders the question of whether or not the refrigerator light stays on when the door is closed, so too does this article underscore the importance of the audience in achieving the goals of the devotional portrait diptych.  Did anyone follow that?  In order for these diptychs to be effective both spiritually and in the public realm, they had to be created within the display culture that we discussed in the article about profile portraits of women.  What is fascinating about this seemingly Renaissance phenomenon is that it could have had such a profound impact not only on form, but also on content.  I would love to discuss the notion of “being private in public” and gender, for in many ways this article tells a story that was voiced by several of the artists and art historians in Mira Schor’s piece.  Books of Hours as a “woman’s place” versus the painted devotional panels that publicly proclaim the male’s spiritual conviction and his status.  The medium is the message.  What do you think about the distinction between men’s holy actions and the manifestations of female spirituality?  Le plus ca change….

Musings about Contemporary Feminism….

Despite the chronological leap posed by this article, the questions posed by the artists and art historians about Feminism and the practice of both these disciplines are quite in synch with our dialogue thus far.  I was also quite moved by these stories. The underlying assumption that the work of Feminism was finished by the late 80s and the power of the backlash that engendered (you’ll forgive the term) had a tremendous impact on several of these women.  I was particularly struck by what Amelia Jones had to say (enough talk! practice Feminism through your art damn it!). How could Feminism of the 70s and 80s be so clumsy in matters of color and class? (“Centers result from the creation of margins.”). Yet at the same time I almost wept when I read Helen Molesworth’s description of the legacy of that feminist movement on page 21, second paragraph. Okay, I have snide things to say as well.  I may have been too tired when I read Kaneda’s statement about her work, but really? Mira Schor’s questioning of her own work was, on the other hand, incredibly insightful and thoughtful in my opinion. Finally, I found Faith Wilding’s statement full of wonderful challenges for a proactive future of feminism.  Onward.

Substitute Article for Feb. 20th!

Contemporary Feminism: Art Practice, Theory, and Activism–An Intergenerational Perspective
Mira Schor, Emma Amos, Susan Bee, Johanna Drucker, María Fernández, Amelia Jones, Shirley Kaneda, Helen Molesworth, Howardena Pindell, Collier Schorr and Faith Wilding
Art Journal , Vol. 58, No. 4 (Winter, 1999), pp. 8-29

Midterm Narrative Assignment

Art 304    Midterm Narrative

We have been discussing the role of women as artists and patrons in the history of Art.  What are some of the strategies we have employed?  For example:  Add women to the male canon and stir?  A radical feminist rewriting of the canon?  first wave-third wave feminist approaches?  In your opinion, what seems to be the most productive line of attack?

As you contemplate the above question, compose a narrative that embraces figures as far afield as the Woman of Willendorf to Lavinia Fontana.  Who were these wondrous nuns and maidens?  Abbess of Hitda, Hildegard von Bingen, Herrad of Landsberg, Christine de Pisan, Matilda, Lucrezia pico della Mirandola….How did the lives and works of Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana differ from their medieval counterparts?  Did women have a Renaissance?

Your essay should include examples from all periods we have discussed in the class and in your reading. You should include the works of at least 6 artists and 2 patrons, using specific examples as you weave together the strands of your story.  The essay should be cohesive and reflective of what you have garnered from the course so far.  The narratives should be @ 5-7 typed pages and are due on Monday, March 5, 2012 in class.

Framing Women in the Renaissance

1.  This article reinforces many of the themes that we have discussed so far in this course, particularly the lack of neutrality of the gaze.  Through what methodological lenses does Simons view the issue of gender in profile portraits created in the Renaissance?

2.  The portraits in this article are seen in the context of the display culture of Quattrocento Florence. Discuss.

3.  In the discussion of woman as an object of exchange, her appearance was carefully calculated to foster her  transfer at the time of marriage; I found the comparison of the profile portrait to a still life positively chilling because it was so apt!

4.  Wives and nuns, the only two Quattrocento options for women, both defined women in relationship to a male.  How do these portraits perpetuate this system or contradict it?

5.  What led to the eventual demise of the profile portrait?

6.  On p. 15  Simons states: “Visual art…both shared and shaped social language and need not be seen as a passive reflection of pre-determining reality. For the representation of women, the profile form, and its particulars were well suited to the construction, rather than reflection, of an invisible ‘reality’.”  In what other art historical cases has this been demonstrated?

7.  It strikes me as ironic that the origins of the profile portrait are traced to dead men and male rulers.  What has the female appropriation done to the prototype.

8.  Are all portraits “anatomizing” in the end?

9.  There is so much in this article to discuss!!!  The optic fear of the woman’s gaze, the Medusa syndrome, the forced passivity of these portraits, and then calling Dr. Freud!

10.  Do you see any danger in discussing these portraits in light of scopophilia, castration anxieties, fetishisation, or the proto-panopticon?

Medieval Musing about Matilda

1. In “male genealogy” it was not uncommon for a ruler to invoke Constantine or David and assume the title of a New Constantine or New David.  Did it surprise you to hear this language used in the case of Matilda?

2.  Why was Matilda such a paragon of virtue? Was her prowess on the battlefield striking to you?

3.  How did the monks of Polirone commemorate Matilda upon her death?  Did the extent of their commemoration seem warranted?

4.  The author makes a case for Matilda’s sanctity that includes the verification of her remains, a miracle, and a cult that grew up in her memory.  Indeed, Polirone’s monastic identity is virtually conflated with that of Matilda.  Mull and discuss.

5.  Lucrezia Pico della Mirandola (great name, no?) models her behavior and patronage after those of Matilda.  What are some examples of monuments that share this prototype: imitation relationship?

6.  If Polirone was revered as a “relic” of Matilda’s visual reign, then rebuilding the church would be a sacrilege.  Does that strike you as a justification for merely renovating the church?

7.  How does Luchino’s account rewrite history?

8.  What role does memory play in this narrative?

Medieval Thoughts…

1. Issues of gender and medieval art are complicated by a number of factors, for example the silence of sources except for those that record the artistic activities of women  of noble birth.  What do we know about  women as patrons and how does that picture change during the course of the medieval period (for example, when is the heyday of royal patronage?  Blanche of Castile? Eleanor of Aquitaine? Marguerite of Burgundy?)

2.  Women artists, both religious and secular, were particularly involved in the production of books during the Middle Ages (Dorothy Miner, “Anastaise and her Sisters”).

3.  What was the contribution of Ende and Emetrius, her assistant?

4.  What were the contributions of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1196)?   Does her international (read: celebrity!) status surprise you?  Herrad of Landsberg, Abbess of Hohenbourg/Mount St. Odile in Alsace (1117-1197)?

5.  What do we know about “opus anglicanum?”

6.  What role do women play (if any) in the production of the Bayeux tapestry?  Are women portrayed in the embroidered narrative, and if so, how?

7.  We have already discussed the gender issues that accompanied the cura monialium and the evolution of the nuns’ liturgical space.  Do you think the ancillary architectural spaces of the monastery were affected by gender considerations, for example the dormitory, the cloister, etc.?

8.  Christine de Pisan wrote in defense of women.  What do you know about the Cite des dames?

9.  Finally, how did the social mores of medieval Europe affect women’s ability to produce artistic work?

10.  What can we learn about their skills and knowledge in examining the work that is extant from this period?

Reminder about additional Reading for next week!

Just a reminder that we will be reading the article below for next Weds.  (How do I stop the underlining???  I’m really not shouting, honest!)  Remember to post your comments by midnight Tuesday 2/14, just as you would for articles on the syllabus.


Women in Frames: The Gaze, the Eye, the Profile in Renaissance Portraiture

Patricia Simons

History Workshop, No. 25 (Spring, 1988), pp. 4-30

Page Scan PDF Summary

Monastic Walls: Some queries….

As my 312 students know, I love this article.  I think it introduces important issues about monasticism, personal property, female mysticism, and architectural space and how it structures worship.  Natalie will have much more to say on this subject, but here are my 2 cents.

1.  Does the Janus-like characterization of the cloister as both prison and paradisus seem odd to you?

2.  What is the function of the emporium in a monastic church?

3.  How did the spiritual practices of females help blur the line between public and private worship?

4.  “Architecture played a role in enforcing women’s access to the altar and in shaping their experience of the Mass.”  Discuss.

5.  How was the Andachtsbild incorporated into the female worship service?