The Virtuosa

“I have made a solemn vow never to send my drawings because people have cheated me. In particular, just today I found...that, having done a drawing of souls in Purgatory for the Bishop of St. Gata, he, in order to spend less, commissioned another painter to do the painting using my work. If I were a man, I can't imagine it would have turned out this way.” - Artemisia Gentileschi

Quiz 1 will open Friday, September 23 and must be submitted before midnight on Monday, September 28
  • Worth a maximum of 25 points
  • Will be comprised of image identification, multiple choice, fill in the blank, matching, and short answer essay questions
Artemisia Gentileschi, Jael and Sisera, c. 1620.











"Man is the measure of all things." - Protagoras
  • Class was decided at birth, & upward mobility was impossible
  • Only native men of high social rank could be citizens
  • Only citizens could vote or own land
  • Citizens made up about 13% of the population
  • With the exception of slaves, women were rarely able to leave the home
  • Women of all classes were considered far inferior to males
  • Female infanticide was fairly common
  • Girls married once they began to menstruate, around age 13
  • Men married around age 30 after they'd had a few intimate relationships (preferably with other males)
Riace Warrior A, found in the sea off Riace, Italy, c. 450 BCE. Bronze, height 6' 8".









"If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.”  - Plato in Republic c. 375 BCE
"[T]he relation of male to female is by nature a relation of superior to inferior and ruler to ruled." - Aristotle in Politics 350 BCE

Polykleitos, Doryphoros, 450 - 440 BCE.
Knidian Aphrodite, Roman copy
after Praxiteles of c. 340 - 330 BCE.











  • By 12th century cities begin to develop bringing growth in trade, travel and education
  • More people involved in selling goods for profit
  • Guilds controlled price of labor, protected the worker and esnured quality for the buyer
    • Children as young as 12 entered an apprenticeship with guild member to learn trade
    • Once an apprentice had learned their craft well, they worked as a "journeyman" until they could establish their own business
  • As the Middle Ages progressed, women were usually allowed to become apprentices and participate in every aspect of guild membership, except becoming a member
  • Eventually, women will be entirely excluded from guilds,
    and their work dismissed as "hobby"
Women Weaving, Boccaccio, Concerning Famous Women, 1402.










Because of the structure of commerce, medieval women's artistic production usually falls into two categories:
  • Embroideries and textiles
  • Illuminated manuscripts
Most (recognized) medieval women art makers were from the wealthy class and were nuns
  • Upper class women who were not nuns produced embroideries
  • Nuns produced illuminated manuscripts
Medieval Spinners and Dyers
from a Book of Days











Opus Anglicanum = embroidered works made in English workshops during the 11th century
By 1250, these professional women embroiderers in England were highly respected
Popes regularly ordered liturgical garments from their shops which were considered as valuable as jewelry
In 1271 Henry III paid £220 for a bejeweled altar frontal equal to about £100,000 ($130,000) today
The labor of the four women who made it cost £36
It took them three years to create it












Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery at the V&A Museum











Bayeux Tapestry

The Battle of Hastings, detail of the Bayeux Tapestry, c. 1086.


View of extant Bayeux Tapestry











Banquet Scene, detail of the Bayeux Tapestry, c. 1086.
Halley's Comet, detail of the Bayeux Tapestry, c. 1086.












More of the Bayeux Tapestry











"The Bayeux Tapestry, although made for a Norman patron (probably Odo, who was named Bishop of Kent after the Conquest), was almost certainly executed by English seamstresses, perhaps in Canterbury, who reveal themselves in their spelling of the tapestry’s Latin labels and in their technique. These same women and their contemporaries also, of course, were busily preserving the Saxon roots of the English language, transmitting it to English children long after the Norman Conquest had added its French vocabulary to the mix. English embroidery, or opus anglicanum, became one of the most prized luxuries of the European Middle Ages." - Ingrid D. Rowland
Bayeux Tapestry
Making the Bayeux Tapestry











Reasons that Medieval women joined convents:


  • Wanted to live a religious life
  • Adult women with pasts to be forgotten
  • Daughters presented as tithes by parents
  • Sickly or un-marriageable daughter
  • Women who wanted to escape the roles of motherhood and marriage - convents provided the only opportunity for women to live outside the constraints of medieval society
Claricia from the German Psalter,  13th century.











Illuminated manuscript = a hand written and illustrated manuscript from the Western or Islamic traditions, commonly produced on vellum and incorporating gold and silver leaf
Probably Jean Le Noir and/or his daughter Bourgot,
Psalter and Hours of Bonne de Luxembourg, before 1349.











Marcia creating aself-portrait with the aide of a mirror, from Boccaccio, Concerning Famous Women, 1402.











Scivias = Know the Ways
Carpet page from Scivias
Hildegard of Bingen, Carptet page from Scivias, 1142 - 1152.
Hildegard von Bingen, the Fifth Vision of the Second Part from Scivias, 1142 - 1152.











Christine de Pizan (1364 - 1430)
When her husband died, Christine de Pizan turned to writing for income
  • She supported herself, her mother and her three children with her writings
  • First known woman in western literature to make a living off of her art
Christine with Justice, 15th century.











The Book of the City of Ladies
Written as a retort to Jean de Meun's popular, Roman de la Rose
  • Pizan defends women by collecting famous women, who become the bricks by which she build the walls and houses of the city.
  • Each woman supports her argument that women are valuable participants in society.
Christine de Pizan, Opening Page of the Book of the City of Ladies, 1405.











"If it were customary to send daughters to school like sons, and if they were then taught the natural sciences, they would learn as thoroughly and understand the subtleties of all the arts and sciences as well as sons." - Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies
Christine de Pizan presenting work to Queen Isabeu of Bavaria, 1410 - 1411.