Personal Worship, Gender, and the Devotional Portrait Diptych!

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?


6 responses

    • On the surface, at least, diptychs were basically public images that were formatted and capable of display before an audience. I find the idea of the Book of Hours illuminated manuscript being public images within private enclosure interesting–a means for demonstrating how pious a man you were by being one with the Lord in a sea of people!
      The portraits were able to mark status in terms of ownership and in detailed accessorizing within that portrait: inclusion of family crest, favorite jewelry or clothing, heralds, mottoes, memento mori…

      One has to wonder how one could resist the temptation to be prideful about worship in the midst of all this adornment and self-aggrandizing…

  1. 5) The format of devotional diptychs was more linked to men than women, depicting men more frequently. Devotional Diptychs were an aspect of bringing private into the public sector, which was encouraged in men devotees but discouraged in pious women.

  2. 5. The diptychs of this time period tended to feature more males, because the format fit more with the pattern of male piety. The models for male and female piety reflected the lives and miracles of the saints that were so central to the Early Modern period of devotion. Male piety was encouraged to be more public. The male patrons in these diptychs often appeared with the Virgin and Child or their favorite, often male saints. The miracles of male saints were often described as public affairs; healings etc., while the miracles of female saints often occurred in the private sphere, like visions. Men and women of this time period were encouraged to practice piety in a similar form as the saints. Since diptychs often, though not always, were displayed in the public sphere the format was more fitting to male spirituality, while images of female patrons often appeared in books of hours, which were for private devotion.

    • In terms of the call for public interchange (117), Pearson claims that the diptychs allowed men to be private in public by owning and displaying the devotional portraits, a (relatively subtle) proclamation of “holier than thou” literally…A male devotee could engage an audience beyond himself through the image of himself in devotion–Talk about subliminal messaging (and, perhaps, an undercurrent of vanity? or just another example for positive reinforcement…)

  3. I can’t wait to discuss this with you guys! Here are some idea to keep in mind for dialogue:

    1. How did patronage networks in northern Europe affect the perpetuation of these images? What impact did patronage have on the concept of piety?

    2. How does the male gaze inform the reading or the production of the panel diptychs, if at all?

    3. According to Chadwick, Counter-Reformation piety called for spiritual and social reform expressed through prayer, devotion and contemplation. This, in addition to Flemish attention to detail and naturalism, informed the work of Prospero Fontana and his students, including Lavinia Fontana.
    Explore links between socioeconomic status, religious devotion and access as a woman artist.

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