Questions to Ponder about Women in Frames! I love this article, even though it has been around a while. It touches on so much about the Italian Renaissance and its culture of display and where women fit into that culture. So here are my discussion questions for Thursday:
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?
Mia will be our guide on this article. Here are just a few questions to ponder. And blog about my dears!
1. Did you find it paradoxical that the actual devotional portrait format may have originated with women?
2. What was the function of these devotional portrait diptychs?
3. What is the distinction between private and public piety in this study? How does architectural space conspire with these separate categories of piety?
4. In what ways were these works personalized?
5. How did the devotional diptychs mirror male spirituality?
6. What role does the audience play in the reception of these diptychs?
7. How do male and female sanctity differ?
8. In what way did women manifest their spirituality? Is there an inequity here?
Manipulating the Sacred…..again!
Merry will be our guide through this article on the recurrent outbreak of the Bubonic plague and the saints invoked to save the day. Be ready to identify your favorite plague saint!
1. What relationship did Millard Meiss suggest existed between the Black Death and the art that it engendered?
2. In what ways are Trexler, Johnson, and this author alike in their views about images and how they operate? How do they differ?
3. Why does Sebastian’s status as a “two-time loser” qualify him as the plague saint “extraordinaire!” ?
4. Why is the manner in which Sebastian portrayed a “supernatural contradiction” and why did this offer such hope to plague sufferers?
5. What did St. Roch have going for him as a plague saint? The Madonna della Misericordia?
6. Did Christ/God’s vindictiveness surprise you?
7. When did the Virgin become a Feminist and what was the source of her transformation? What is the source of her power?
8. Unpack the fresco painted by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1464 for the Augustinians of San Gimignano (p. 527). Why is this such an extraordinary image?
9. How did images function in the Renaissance during the intermittent outbreaks of the plague?
Jessica will be our guide in this reading, one that questions the disparity between the revolutionary visual manifestation of Hildegard’s Apocalyptic vision of the Antichrist and her more traditional explanation of that vision. Here are a few questions to begin the discussion.
1. How does the author interpret Hildegard’s visionary experience? Does he find textual evidence to privilege the visual over the textual in his interpretation?
2. In Hildegard’s vision of the Last Days, what are the “traditional” symbols? What parts of the vision are peculiar to Hildegard’s vision?
3. What are the implications of the inclusion of corruption within the image of Ecclesia? Was Hildegard the bad girl of the 12thc.? How does her Ecclesia differ from Herrad’s image in the Hortus D.?
4. Why was Simon Magus compared to the Antichrist?
5. What is simony?
6. Why are the explanations for this vision so “according to the book” in Emmerson’s view?
7. How do the presence of Enoch and Elijah alter the impression of the Salem Scivias vis a vis the Rupertsberg manuscript? Which one would have been preferred by the Church?
8. How do you interpret the relationship between Hildegard and Volmar?
9. How do we in the last analysis assess Hildegard’s Apocalyptic vision of the Last Days?
Here are Jessica’s questions!
1.This article deals with the complex relationship between image and word. Do you see this as a recurring theme in any other women artists’ works?
2.Katherine Kerby-Fulton calls Hildegard a “ spiritual meliorist,” McGinn labels it “essentially conservative and pessimistic,” and Emmerson thinks she’s somewhere in between. What do you think?
3.We have heard/seen a lot about Hildegard in this class. What do you think her significance is in art herstory?
Here are Gala’s questions!
To what does the term “pregnant hearts” refer? What is the conceptual and material connection between this and the crystal wombs?
What was the significance of “sudden transparence” in monastic life and how did this influence their understanding of spiritual devotion?
Unpack the visions of Henry Suso and Gertrude of Helfta. What makes these visions, respectively, particularly relevant to an analysis of Visitation Group?
What, ultimately, is Jung’s argument concerning the function of Visitation Group within the Katharinenthal Convent? What, within the evidence that she provides, is most convincing to you?
Here are Hannah’s Questions:
1) Why do you think Johnson chose this particular work (Donatello’s Floor Tomb of Bishop Giovanni Pecci) to illustrate her argument?
2) How might this work interact with Duccio’s Maesta? How do they influence each other’s meaning?
3) Would the holiness of the tomb and the “perpetual mass” (455) lose their effectiveness or be somehow diminished if members of the general public viewed the tomb on a regular basis? Why or why not?
4) Do you think Donatello’s main focus in this work (Pecci tomb) was facilitating an ongoing mass for the bishop’s soul? Or, do you think this was one of several factors he took into consideration? Why or why not?
5) Would Masses said for Pecci be more significant if they did not occur automatically and one had to make an explicit effort to conduct them?
6) How would one’s interpretation of this work be different if it were in a different environment, like another part of the cathedral or in a different kind of building?
7) Feel free to leave a comment about anything else that confused or surprised you. I’ll try to work these into our in-class discussion.
Gala will be our guru on this article for Thursday’s discussion. Just a little background: one of the “hottest” new trends in medieval art history is Christian materiality—that is to say that the materials that are used to create works of art are imbued with agency and must be considered in the same way one examines symbolism or patronage, etc. This article is a stunning example of this approach. Unfortunately, Inter-library loan sent this to me without footnotes so we are reading it without the full advantage of her erudition. Some questions to start the discussion:
1. How did devotional images function within a monastic context? Did this differ from the way they functioned outside the monastery?
2. What were some of the properties ascribed to crystals during the Middle Ages? Are there any contemporary parallels to these beliefs?
3. How does Gertrude’s vision of the nursing Madonna differ from the medieval concept of nursing both in utero and post partum?
4. Does it seem incongruous to you that pregnancy should be a model for one’s union with God for both males and females in monastic settings?
5. According to Jung, what did the nuns see in the crystalline wombs of the Virgin and Elizabeth in the statue group of the Visitation?
6. Do you feel that X-ray vision is unique to the medieval period?
7. Why was Guta’s gaze problematic?
8. Finally, what is the dialogical relationship between the observer and the object in the monastic setting?
Remember that Monday Dr. Manes will lead us in a discussion of the Guild system in Florence; the reading is posted on Moodle. On Weds. Hannah will lead us in a discussion of Donatello’s Pecci tomb effigy. Below are just a few questions to start the discussion.
1. Like Trexler’s article, Johnson posits an active role for the audience in the reception of the Pecci tomb. How do these authors differ in their approach to the public, as it were?
2. In what ways, if at all, does Donatello’s tomb effigy complement the funeral rituals performed at Pecci’s death?
3. Does Donatello make time stand still, as it were, in this monument? Had this ever been achieved in art before?
4. How is the viewer implicated in this tomb monument? Isn’t the viewer implicated in all sculpture, if it is effective?
5. What was considered prime real estate in the church as far as burial sites were concerned?
6. What were some of the strategies employed to garner salvation during the Renaissance?
Here are Sally’s Questions:
1) Why does Trexler value the study of religious behavior? How can this emphasis on the anthropology of religious art and the psychology of art audiences in the religious world help our understanding of the Renaissance?
2) How does Trexler write about assumption limiting our understanding of the religious image-faithful in the periods discussed? What assumptions should be avoided? What assumptions does Trexler make himself about the Italian religious population?
3) Discuss the way the Nostra Dama of Impruneta is used as an example to show the interaction between image and supplicant. How does the manipulation or altering of legal codes reflect the changing value of the religious image? Does the value of the religious image change at all over time based on the change in legal language?
4) Of the effects of the appearance of the Nostra Dama of Impruneta, why does Trexler discuss psychological positivity? How was she used or could she be used in that way? What was the benefit of her presence in that respect? Why is this even important as it pertains to holy/sacred/important art in Florence.
Here are Morgan’s Questions:
1. Why is the architecture of the convents discussed so much in this article? What is Hamburger’s purpose of that?
2. What do you think about the Ebstorf convent’s reform reconstruction in the mid 15th century?
3. Does this article change your perception about nuns during the Middle Ages or women from Middle Ages in general?
4. What reasons have contributed to the dismissal of female artists and patrons of these convents over time?
5. Why are Liturgies so important?
6. “Even as art historians turn to allied disciplines for methodological guidance, we should not overlook the extent to which our own objects of study can transform approaches to other fields of historical inquiry.” (p.126) What does Hamburger mean by this statement about the role of art history?