What a Woman Can (and Cannot) Do

"My illustrious lordship, I'll show you what a woman can do." - Artemisia Gentileschi

Gentileschi self-portrait purchased by Wadsworth Museum

VTLS Speaker, Artist, Rachel Mason
Wednesday, March 1
7 - 8 PM in AF 209 C


Question on Regrouping

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait Playing Lute, c. 1615 - 1617.











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.











Why are women largely absent from Florentine Renaissance history?

  • Humanist emphasis on academic study for artists
  • Use of linear perspective required knowledge of mathematics
  • Emphasis on anatomical study and accuracy
  • Most Renaissance artists came from artisan backgrounds and were guild members
  • Artists expected to travel abroad
Sandro Botticelli, La Primavera, c. 1482.











tempera  = a fast drying, water-based paint that
uses egg yolk as a binder
oil paint = a slow drying paint that
uses lindseed oil as a binder

Birth of Venus

Arnolfini Marriage

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c. 1484 - 1486.
Tempera on canvas.
Jan van Eyck, Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini (?) and His Wife, Giovanna Cenami, 1434. Oil on panel.











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.












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.











Elisabetta Sirani
1638 - 1665


Elisabetta Sirani, Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1638 - 1665.











Portia Wounding Her Thigh

Elisabetta Sirani, Portia Wounding Her Thigh, 1664.











Lincoln's Catafalque

President Lincoln's Catafalque


catafalque = an ornamental structure used in funerals for the lying in state of the body