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….


4 responses

  1. I enjoyed her definition of personal vs. private piety and its relation to gender. I found it interesting that patrons could request certain clothing in their portrayal of themselves in their Book of Hours. i wonder how this relates to our previous reading on frames and the idea of still life. I also like the idea of mise-en-abyme, the book within a book potentially within a book. I find the reading of gender in these works to be quite juicy. Maybe we can discuss her use of saints as models for how men and women were supposed to behave? I found the ideas of privacy and gender to be riddled by power dynamics, which I enjoyed reading about. This reading reminds me a bit of the reading we did in Cathedrals about women, performance, and blood. I wonder how architecture comes into play with “secret spaces”…
    In the end, do we find the representations of women in books of hours commissioned by women to be empowering?

    also pertaining to our last discussion, i wanted to put a definition of queer theory out there:

    I also found this bit from the Wikipedia definition useful: Queer theory’s main project is exploring the contesting of the categorisation of gender and sexuality; identities are not fixed – they cannot be categorised and labeled – because identities consist of many varied components and that to categorise by one characteristic is wrong. Queer theory said that there is an interval between what a subject “does” (role-taking) and what a subject “is” (the self). So despite its title the theory’s goal is to destabilise identity categories, which are designed to identify the “sexed subject” and place individuals within a single restrictive sexual orientation.

    and this part applies to our problems with post-modernism and qualifiers: Queer theory’s commitment to deconstruction makes it nearly impossible to speak of a “lesbian” or “gay” subject, since all social categories are denaturalized and reduced to discourse.[33] Thus, queer theory cannot be a framework for examining selves or subjectivities—including those that accrue by race and class—but rather, must restrict its analytic focus to discourse.

    This also has been stuck in my head:

  2. I am so excited for my presentation tomorrow and hope that we can generate a lot of productive conversation. I will be posting my questions in the near future, but I am still trying to develop them to their greatest potential. I will see you tomorrow, and please be prepared with lots of questions and discussion points!!! 🙂

  3. 1. “The devotional attitudes and practices of the laity generally can be described as personal but not necessarily as private. The intermingling of public display and private life is consistent with Burundian court practices in general…the court obscured clear lines between private and public. We now understand European courts less as mere households than as political, cultural, and social networks animated by the distribution of patronage and moored to a strong institutional base whose principal beneficiaries profited from the public right to display their authority.”
    a. It seems as if the court systems were almost the TMZ of religious practice, making public all that was private and personal. How would this melding of the public and private influence one’s worship? How would the more literal privacy of a woman’s devotion be affected?
    b. Diptychs serve almost as a reflection to the worshiper, mimicking and modeling the ideal behavior displayed by the devotee. How would this psychologically and spiritually affect the worshiper?

    2. What, to you, is the significance of the differentiation of “saintly qualities” based on gender?

    3. Do you find the expectation of feminine privacy particularly problematic? Are there positive aspects to it?

    4.Does the private aspect of women’s devotional pieces actually give them power? Does this allow for their worship to be more genuine, rather than a performance?

    5. Although she may not be engaging the viewer, the Virgin is generally viewed from the front rather than in profile. Judging from our previous readings, what is the significance of this, especially when paired with profile heavy illuninations?

    6. When I was reading this paper I initially became interested in the diptychs that focused upon women and wondered how they might differ from those for men. Why do you think she chose to focus upon this work rather than the diptychs made for women?

  4. Wow. This was fascinating.
    First I’d like to applaud the author for making this article readable, something I’ve struggled with in this class as a non-Art History major.
    Gendered piety!!! Craziness. How has this tradition affected how men and women worship today?
    I’m worried that the article might be highly hypothetical because her statistic of 6 female illuminated books to 5 male is not very strong…
    I, like Donna, am really excited to discuss “being public in private.” How was piety performance? Art was public, so despite it’s private content and nature, it was still highly performative.
    I also can’t get over the fact that men were supposed to be public worshipers and women were supposed to be introspective. What created this environment? How has that changed over time?
    How has pious performance affected general expectations for women over time?

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