The Male Gaze

At the age of sixteen, Isabella d'Este was able to speak Greek and Latin as well as play the lute, sing, dance and debate. She was very well-educated and her political talent benefited Mantua while she was ruling. When her husband left, Isabella governed the city on her own, and after he died she took over his job. She showed great leadership skills in 1509 when she became Chief of State in Mantua.

At this time she also founded a school for young women where they had to observe a strict code of morals. She was a significant patron of the arts and wrote over two thousand letters during her lifetime in which she commented on everything from politics to war. That was the closest that any woman at that time ever got to writing history.

Isabella d'Este
Titian, Isabella d'Este, 1536.










Four of Sofonisba's five sisters were also trained painters, but not her brother. The second eldest sister, Elena, also studied under Bernardino Campi but abandoned painting to become a nun. Two of the other sisters ended their artistic pursuits when they married, and the last died at an early age. Sofonisba would become the first internationally recongnized woman artist.
Portrait of the Artist's Sisters and Brother
Sofonisba Anguissola, Portrait of the Artist's Sisters and Brother, c. 1555.











The Chess Game

Sofonisba Anguissola, The Chess Game, 1555.











linear perspective = mathematic system for depicting the illusion of depth on a
two-dimensional surface invented in the Renaissance


School of Athens

Raphael, School of Athens, c. 1510 - 1511.











School of Athens
School of Athens
one point perspective
two point perspective










male gaze = a theory introduced by Laura Mulvey's 1975 essay "Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema that examines the activity of looking in classic Hollywood cinema. Mulvey posited that because the story is usually told from the white heterosexual male protagonist's point of view, the viewer is assumed to also be white, male and heterosexual. Prompted by this theory, art historians have traced this idea of looking back to the Renaissance when artists, through the invention and use of linear perspective began to imagine their viewer to be male.
Holy Trinity
Trinity perspective
Masaccio, Trinity with the Virgin, Saint John the Evangelist, and Donors, c. 1425 - 1428.
Trinity perspective diagram











Pastoral Concert
"The answer was always understood, that there are no women artists because women artists don't have the golden nugget of genius. The whole point of my article was to show that it was a much larger issue, that women hadn't been permitted into the academies to learn how to make art, they were treated servile, their work was criticized very dismissively. In other words, it wasn't just genetic, it wasn't just that genius was born into some people who happen to have penises and not born into people who have breasts and vaginas." - Linda Nochlin
Titian and Giorgione, The Pastoral Concert, c. 1508.











Baroque period
end of the 16th century - 1750

The Last Supper

Characteristics of the Baroque Style:
Interest in light and space
Rich use of color and dramatic contrasts
Innovative illusionism
More emphasis on emotion than reason
Multi-media sensory overload
Tintoretto (and his daughter Marietta?), The Last Supper, 1592 - 1594.











Lavinia Fontana, Allegory, c. 1590.
Lavinia Fontana, The Dead Christ with Symbols of the Passion, 1576.











There are over 100 documented works by Lavinia Fontana, but only 32 signed and dated works are known to survive today. Twenty-five additional works have been attributed to Fontana, making hers the largest known body of work for any female artist prior to 1700.
Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noble Woman and Her Dog, 1580.











Noli Me Tangere

noli me tangere = Latin for don't touch me

The traditional understanding of John 20:17 posits that after the resurrection, Mary Magdelene recognizes Christ in a garden and reaches out for him to verify what she believes she is seeing.  Christ's response has long been interpreted as "don't touch me." However, the gospel was written in Greek and the phrase was improperly translated.  A more accurate interpretation of the Greek phrase, Μή μου ἅπτου, may be "stop clinging to me."

Lavinia Fontana, Noli Me Tangere, 1581.









Lavinia Fontana, Self-Portrait at the Spinnet, 1577.











Historic Context
Beginning of Protestant Reformation
Death of Raphael
Sack of Rome - end of High Renaissance
1545 - 1563
Counter Reformation begins with Council of Trent
Henry VIII breaks from Catholic Church and establishes Church of England
Copernicus publishes theory in which planets revolve around sun
First scientific study of human anatomy based on dissections published
Giorgio Vasari publishes The Lives of the Artists
1558 - 1603
Elizabeth I reigns in England
1564 - 1616
William Shakespeare
Netherlands declare independence from Spain











The Protestant Reformation

Four Apostles

1517 Luther post the "95 Theses"
95 Reforms he demands the Catholic Church make
  • Strove to rid the Church of pagan practice and ritual
  • Promoted importance of individual faith
  • Viewed devotion to the saints as distracting
  • Critical of the sale of indulgences
Albrecht Dürer, Four Apostles, 1526.











Counter Reformation = the movement of self-renewal and reform within the Roman Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation of the early 16th century and attempting to combat its influence. Its principles were formulated and adopted at the Council of Trent, 1545 - 1563.

Contrelli Chapel

Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesci, Rome.











Artemisia Genitleschi
1593 - 1653


Artemisia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders, 1610.











How Artemisia departs from tradition in her image of Susanna:
  • Susanna placed center and near the bottom edge so that viewer relates with her more than the other figures
  • Removes Susanna from the garden
  • Portrays Susanna as disgusted and horrified by the advances rather than as a seductress
  • Presents Susanna as unwillingly exposed rather than allow viewer to gaze upon her with voyeuristic freedom
  • Composition implies third spectator, implicating the viewer
Artemisia Gentileschi,
Susanna and the Elders, 1610.