2022 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Dublin
IAS-Sponsored Session

Women and Gender in Trecento Art & Architecture I

Organizer: Judith Steinhoff, University of Houston


Speakers/Papers

Péter Bokody, University of Plymouth, UK
Women as Emotive Models in Giovanni Sercambi’s Chronicle

The paper examines the role of female historical models in Giovanni Sercambi’s Chronicle. The first part of the chronicle on the history of Lucca is accompanied by 651 images. A member of the General Assembly from 1372 and of the Elders’ Council from 1390, Sercambi was an active player in the political life of the city and held a number of important positions. Although the imagery usually illustrates the narrative context, in some instances the author includes allegorical meditations on the nature of politics and power. Some of these models relate to historical women, and they are meant to explain the emotional aspects of an event. In this respect, the images and mediations give us a glimpse into the stereotypical use of women for contemporary ideological purposes in history writing.

Michael Shane Harless, Rice University
Fruit of the Vine: Pacino di Bonaguida's Lignum Vitae and Clarissan Visual Literacy

This paper will focus on Pacino di Bonaguida’s Lignum Vitae executed for the Clarissan convent of Monticelli in Florence around ca. 1310-1315. While the original position of the dossal within the convent is uncertain, Pacino’s painted expression of Bonaventure’s theology functions as a relic of the past, attesting to the devotional life that once thrived within the Florentine convent. Although misogynistic attitudes often questioned the spiritual acumen of medieval women, a comprehensive analysis of the painting’s arboreal design reveals an advanced visual literacy operating within the Clarissan community at Monticelli. By thoroughly examining Pacino’s trailblazing work, this study attempts to illustrate how the panel’s corporeal sensibility enhances the devotion of the cloistered viewer, as the branches that spring forth from the sacrificial tree and the continual intersection of Christ’s body function as steppingstones in the ascension of spirit, aiding the Poor Clare in her contemplation of the sacred mysteries.

Karen E. McCluskey, University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney
Holy Men and Artful Nuns: What Paintings Reveal about the Lived Experience of Trecento Women

Sometime shortly after 1350, a group of nuns entered the dim sanctuary of their convent-church. They clutched a small bundle of miniver brushes and a range of pigments, mostly black, the colour of their habits. In silent partnership, they reached a painted Vita panel. One nun, nominated as the most competent in the art of painting, set to substituting three noblemen depicted on the panel with a trio of female Benedictines. Mission accomplished, the nuns stealthily retreated. This is how I like to imagine the moment an overpainting was executed on Paolo Veneziano’s Vita panel of Leone Bembo (c.1350). The suspect nuns were the custodians of Bembo’s relics. They were wealthy and powerful yet forced to live under patriarchal control. Taking this incident as a point of departure, and drawing on the History of Experience methodology, this paper puts the lived experience of these women into sharp focus by interrogating their motivation to “rewrite” their history.

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