Blog post 1: Women in Renaissance Art

In crafting my Monroe project proposal, I knew that I wanted to study feminist perspectives on Renaissance art, but I knew very little about the quantity and scope of feminist art historical scholarship. Because of this, I phrased my research question broadly as “How did the portrayal of female figures in Renaissance art from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries relate to the social status of women?” I planned to compile a general review of the literature, possibly focusing in on areas of particular interest that I came across in my investigation.

The resources that I have found so far have been extremely diverse in their subject matter and approach. Some essays are largely psychological and sociological analyses which delve deeply into the notion of the male gaze and how it pervades painted images of women, most of which were commissioned and executed by men. Other essays focus on more concrete historical information taken from letters, diaries, and legal records. The topics under examination range from contemporary ideals of female beauty and virtue and their depiction in portraits, to the function of decorated objects associated with marriage and childbirth. In addition, essays often address specific geographic locations, such as Florence and Venice.

So far, my research has mostly covered secular female portraiture and artistic objects associated with marriage, but I’m hoping to also incorporate information on religious images of women and women artists. I had initially planned to cover art from both northern and southern Europe; however, given the vast quantity of information available, I have decided to focus on Italian art. Currently, I’m trying to wrap up my initial phase of reading and note-taking and begin synthesizing the information that I’ve found. I’ll share this information in my next blog post.