2021 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Virtual
IAS-Sponsored Session

Women and Gender in Italian Trecento Art and Architecture I

RSA virtual meeting room 27; Tuesday, April 20, 2021; 10:00–11:30AM EDT

Organizer and Chair: Judith Steinhoff, University of Houston

These sessions examine both the patronage and the representation of women in 13th- and 14th-century Italian art, topics that remain under-explored despite the large body of scholarship on women and gender in other cultures and periods. Papers go beyond the stereotypical gender identities and roles promoted by the Church and theological writings, to seek a complex understanding of the models for and the lives of Trecento women.

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Cordelia Warr, University of Manchester, UK
“Women re/act: Women and Images in Trecento Art”

The relationship between women and art in Italy during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries can be understood as one of instruction – art instructs and women are instructed. Following Augustine’s (†430) distinction between corporeal, spiritual and intellectual vision, theologians such as Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure (d. 1274) argued that images in churches were suitable for the instruction of the uneducated. As Chiara Frugoni has argued, visual images could therefore be perceived as particularly suitable for women, who were often illiterate. Some holy women, including Angela of Foligno and Catherine of Siena, are recorded as having strong reactions to certain images. Others, such as Clare of Montefalco, rejected images at key points in their lives. In this paper, I seek to problematize the relationship of women and images in the trecento in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of how women could act on images as well as re-act to them.

Angelica Federici, Cambridge University
“Convents, Clausura and Cloisters: Female Religious Patronage in Medieval Lazio”

The study of religious convents of late medieval Lazio still lacks a thorough historiography, a surprising lack if we consider that between the thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries the area was densely populated by women religious and their nunneries. While single case studies on convents do exist, there has been no attempt to investigate female religious patronage outside of Rome. By selecting specific convents, this paper will examine female religious patronage in Lazio during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in a broader artistic, political and social context. The survival of documentary and artistic testimonies including epigraphy, sculpture, architecture and funerary monuments testifies both to an uninterrupted artistic production throughout the Avignon period, and to the role of nuns as key players in the promotion of these commissions. Particular attention will be devoted to pictorial cycles inside choirs, ‘ungendered’ artefacts, and to the inner articulation of architectural space.

Janis Elliott, Texas Tech University
“The Art of Royal Propaganda: Recovering the Queen of Naples’ Reputation”

The early reign of Queen Joanna I of Naples (1343-1382) was full of betrayal and intrigue. She was accused of brutally assassinating her husband. The public and private suspicion of murder and adultery ruined Joanna’s reputation. When she married again to Louis of Taranto, she allowed him to be crowned king and, hiding from her tarnished reputation, took a back seat at court. Ten years later, Joanna emerged more savvy about the power of public perception. She focused on publicly demonstrating her piety through her religious benefactions, through her obedience to the pope and the Church, by associating with living saints, and by commissioning artworks and building projects that helped to re-shape public perception of her rule. This paper will focus on Joanna’s understanding of the power of images and her deliberate use of artistic propaganda to re-build her positive public persona.

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