The Eternal Return…..

Gala will be our guide for this article and I will let her post the discussion questions next week. I loved this article and have so many questions that I would like to discuss. One issue that I would like your feedback on is whether or not you think these ideas pertain to photography only. I have published an article utilizing the notion of punctum and the reception of the Well of Moses; in other words, I find the concept of representation’s ability to both preserve and kill an image simultaneously, to serve as a screen, a fetish, a source of punctum and studium, and site of performativity —viable in painting and sculpture as well as in photography. (I am not speaking here of the subtle refinements that Jones contributes to the definition of self-portraiture—which are amazing!). What do you think about the weighty role given to the viewer? The notion of embodiment —discuss! In footnote 22 Jones invokes O’Dell’s theory re: the photographic document of the performance as a link between the body of the performer and the body of the viewer. In my work on the Entombment sculptures, I write about them as embodiments of the suffering of the community witnessing the death of Christ. They perform this moment in time, so that the worshiper may project him or herself into the narrative, engendering a type of catharsis. Does that sound plausible? On page 971, how do the self-portraits of Sherman, Wilke, Ashton Harris, and Aguilar differ in their invocation of death from Renaissance memento mori? Doesn’t Jones’ statement on page 972 re: art’s capacity to embrace the other and the radical benefits thereof make you want to sing an aria to the whole discipline?


Happy Mothers and Other New Ideas brought to you from the Enlightenment!

Ah, the Happy Mother!

Mia will be our guide on this reading about the Enlightenment (sic) and tale of the good mother embroidered in both art and literature of the period! Here are a few questions to ponder:

1. Before the Enlightenment, how was the family portrayed in art? Was this rendering faithful to the social reality of marriage?
2. Did the association of marriage with sexual satisfaction in 18th-century imagery seem surprising to you? How did the presence of children diminish the erotic nature of these representations?
3. Before the paradigm shift that Duncan charts, what were the roles assigned to husband and wife in marriage?
4. Discuss the representations of adultery and why that alternative was so widespread.
5. Before Rousseau, how were children perceived and how did Enlightenment thinkers change peoples’ views on parenting?
6. How did the paintings of Greuze and Aubrey reflect the ideas espoused in Rousseau’s Julie, Nouvelle Heloise, and Emile?
7. How did these new views of conjugal love affect portraiture? How did they affect contemporary families?
8. The very heart of the Enlightenment family was the wife-mother as eulogized by Diderot. In wanting to do what they were required to do, some women failed to measure up. What women did not match these criteria?
9. What were the origins of this cult of motherhood? What, if any, were the historical repercussions of the formula that “motherhood = happiness?”


This is one of my very favorite articles. I will lead the discussion of this article on Thursday. Here are some questions to ponder:
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?

Artemisia’s Hand!

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Hand: Manual telegraphy, really?

Hande will be our guide for this article by Mary Garrard. Just a few words, a few questions to begin the dialogue…..Art history began as a discipline largely governed by connoisseurship and leading that charge was Morelli! He believed that an artist could change his or her style a great deal however, that artist would not alter his or her earlobes, or the way hands were drawn. This Morellian method engendered a great deal of scrutiny of paintings for earlobe consistency and hands that did not break the mold, as it were. Many art historians still rely on connoisseurship but have added other methodologies to temper this approach to an artist’s style. I am eager to hear your thoughts about this article, not only because of the feminist underpinnings of her thesis, but also because of the visual tactics she employs.

1. What was the exception to the beautiful woman = beautiful hands formula in paintings by male artists?
2. How does the author explain the eroticized nature of the Lute Player newly attributed to Artemisia?
3. Do you see any possible dangers to a strict adherence to the Morellian method for artistic attributions?
4. What is Artemisia’s approach to rendering hands in her paintings of women according to the author?
5. Do you agree with Garrard’s interpretation of the LeMans Allegory of Painting?
6. Do you feel that the “homey realism” of Artemisia’s Cleopatra subverts the eroticism of the work?
7. What did hands connote during the Renaissance?
8. How did the contemporary reception of Artemisia and Sirani differ? Has history treated Sirani differently?
9. Do you believe that we can speak confidently about the feminist sensibilities that underlie Artemisia’s work?

The Face of Fortitude in Sirani’s Portrayal of Antique Heroines!

The Antique Heroines of Sirani: the face of Fortitude!

Hande will be our guru for this article, which focuses on the art scene in Bologna for women painters during the Renaissance. Some questions to begin the dialogue:

1. What was the significance of Caterina Vigri for women artists in Bologna?
2. How have the paintings of Lavinia Fontana and Elisabetta Sirani traditionally been evaluated? How does the author attempt to change this perspective?
3. How much influence did the patron exert upon the tenor of a painting of a religious subject? Was there greater freedom in the depiction of secular subjects?
4. What genre of painting were women more biologically suited to paint? How does Sirani upset this paradigm?
5. To what do you attribute Sirani’s success as a painter—-her oeuvre of 200+ works, celebrity status, etc.?
6. What virtues did Timoclea embody? Which of these violated the “feminine code”?
7. Do you think that Sirani’s Judith works? How would you compare her to Artemesia Gentileschi’s portrayal of the Jewish heroine?
8. “Without Beauty Eloquence is silent, Since Beauty is mute Eloquence, And Eloquence is loquacious Beauty.” Discuss in light of this article.
9. The coexistence of femininity and fortitude in Sirani’s portrayal of the figure of Portia seems singular. Do any ideas like this still persist?
10. The author refers to the “popularity of female self-destruction in Western art.” Were you aware of this predisposition—-and what women reflect this “trend”?

Alberti: Is a picture worth a 1000 words?

Alberti: Is a picture worth a 1000 words?

Shan Shan will be our leader for this article however, I don’t seem to be able to stay out of the water! Here are a few queries:

1. Alberti’s treatise On Painting was one of the most influential works of the Renaissance. He imbues the art of painting with amazing powers of persuasion….but can the rhetoric of painting hold its own against that of speech?
2. Why does Alberti use descriptions of ancient paintings to describe the power of art and particularly the historia? Just because this is the Renaissance…..
3. Does it necessarily follow that if words are the domain of the invisible, that painting is the realm of the visible? In other words, do you agree with the author’s position regarding Alberti’s “protesting too much” about the exclusivity of these two worlds?
4. What are Alberti’s expectations of his audience? Do you feel that he requires too much of the viewer?
5. Apelles’ Calumny intersected with both his and Alberti’s personal history. Do you think this influenced Alberti’s use of this work as a vehicle to explain the principles of painting in his treatise?
6. What does Marin wish to underscore in suggesting that historical painting erases the deictic circumstances of discourse—or the distinction between the painter and the beholder? What is Alberti’s position as the voice behind the curtain?
7. Is the intervention of words always necessary to save images from themselves?

A Hue and a Cry—-indeed!

Jessica will be our guide through this article, which I hope you found as illuminating as I did. Here are a few queries to begin the discussion:

1. How is rape generally treated by art historians? What is the “other” rape tradition?
2. What was the take-away lesson of the Levite’s wife for a medieval audience?
3. How was rape visually represented in medieval art?
4. Le plus ca change…..why is rape notoriously difficult to prove? Besides a hue and a cry, what other signs would a woman have to manifest?
5. When did woman as rape victim change into woman as seductress? How was this metamorphosis represented in art?
6. Did the moral outrage at contemporary cases of rape engender severe punishment of rapists? Why or why not?
7. On p. 51 the author states that the clergy in the 13th and 14th centuries were guilty of an extremely high percentage of rapes (especially in England). Discuss!
8. How does the image of women “regress” in the Renaissance depictions of Justice?
9. How did the Biblical figure of Jael epitomize this metamorphosis?
10. How can art history rectify this jaundiced view of heroic rape imagery?

The Nuns of S. Apollonia and Castagno’s Last Supper!

The Nuns of S. Apollonia and that Virile Castagno!

Camille will be our leader for this article on audience reception, the role of gender in patronage in the Quattrocento, and how style intersects with these two issues in the Last Supper fresco in the fresco of the Refectory of S. Apollonia in Florence. Naturally, I have some questions!

1. Do you agree with the author in assigning the choice of the artist of this fresco to the abbess of A. Apollonia? Is the evidence compelling in your opinion?
2. What were the other functions of the refectory and how did the iconography of the frescoes intersect with the uses of this space?
3. The profusion of females in the Passion scenes above the Last Supper is singled out as having special relevance for the nuns in the convent. Do you think this is true?
4. What is the relationship between women, food, the Eucharist, and Castagno’s rendering of the Last Supper?
5. Do you agree that Castagno’s hard-edged, “virile” style is in a sense a fulfillment of the patron’s wishes for this refectory Last Supper? Why or why not?
6. Why was virility a virtue, as it were, for the nuns of S. Apollonia?
7. In what way did the tenor of Castagno’s fresco correspond to the punishments sometimes endured by the nuns who failed to follow the Benedictine rules?
8. In what way is Mary “present” in the Last Supper according to the author?
9. Do you agree with the author’s reading of the marble panels in the fresco of the Last Supper?
10. Have women always sought a “place setting” at the Last Supper in both art and life? Discuss!

Here’s Looking at me!

Here’s Looking at Me

Morgan will lead us through the looking glass of Sofonisba’s portraits, however, here are my thoughts and questions for you to ponder.

1. My research is all about the “absent presence” in works of art. Mary Garrard posits an interesting theory about Sofonisba Anguissola’s double portrait of Bernardo Campi painting Sofonisba. What aspect of Sofonisba is not present in this work of art?
2. Campi may be considered in a conventional way as Pygmalion in this work of art, or conversely as pseudo-Pygmalion. Discuss both of these readings and why you find one more compelling than the other.
3. Comment on the issue of audience in Sofonisba’s works and why that is such a critical factor in Garrard’s thesis.
4. What was the reigning paradigm for women artists during the Renaissance? In what ways does Sofonisba subvert this paradigm?
5. Why did Sofonisba add the word “virgo” to her self-portraits? In what other ways did she underscore her lack of identification with typical feminine qualities?
6. What did the presence of the virginal connote in the self-portraits of the artist? With whom did she wish to be symbolically linked?
7. How did the element of gender alter the chess game in the Renaissance? What does the inner dynamic of Sofonisba’s chess game reveal?
8. Garrard claims that Sofonisba’s work, with its focus on family life, kinship networks, private history, etc., questions the patriarchalism from which they depart. Do you agree?