Women in Arts History

One of Castaglione's tenets praised the merits of an educated woman and advocated basic instruction for women in music, reading and needle arts. Because of the liberating influence of modern social view, women had more social freedom to pursue an education and, consequently, a possible career. (Deborah, pp. 28) However, academic training in the arts was still unavailable to them, and studying anatomy and the nude were unacceptable for women who were expected to be modest and chaste. In order for a woman to have the opportunity to learn to paint, she had to exhibit artistic talent at a very early age. It was also helpful to have a father or relative who could teach her. One economic advantage for women who learned the craft of painting--and a benefit also for their fathers--was the ability to earn money and, thus, be able to provide for their own dowries. However, careers of women artists often ended when they married. Though long time in world history women were restricted from working at the professional level of most occupations and could not work free of male relatives. The few documented female Renaissance artists were either the daughter of artists who trained in their fathers' workshops or who were expected to have fairly accomplished literary, musical, and artistic skills because they were of a higher class. Although records indicate that they were talented, these women frequently ended their artistic careers when they married, concentrating their work on subjects considered suitable for women artists settings.

Feminists from an assortment of disciplines began to reconsider the long-held conviction that early on modern women were on an equal par with men. We know that the roles of women in social, political, economic, and cultural life were greatly inhibited during this period. Due to the absence of women's stories in many areas of Renaissance studies has led to little discussion of the social and political regulation that caused it, and of how transgressions of female boundaries might have been achieved (Wallach, pp. 12). However, a growing number of feminist scholars have shown that women in the Renaissance did not merely internalize the roles urged on them, but rather constructed positions for themselves in everyday life, as well as in the other elite pursuits of literature, music, and art. Art in particular was a powerful method of controlling women, through a number of visual examples and social pressures.

One example of a renaissance woman was Caterina van Hemessen who received her artistic training in her father's studio. She has ten surviving pictures, eight include portrait of women shown at domestic pursuits, such as playing the spinet or chess. She married a musician and appeared to have ended her career as an artist. Another was the Bolognese artist Lavinia Fontana, who was also the daughter of a painter, and was recognized in her day for her portraiture talent. She was never married and only later received the respect for her work. One of the most talented female Renaissance artists was Sofonisba Anguissola who was the daughter of a Cremonese nobleman. (Barrel, pp. 128) As a sophisticated woman she was expected to train in the arts and music. She had exceptional artistic talent praised even by Michelangelo, and with her father's encouragement, she produced a large number of portraits. However, instead of renouncing her artistic career, she became a lady in waiting and court painter to Queen Isabella of Valois in Spain (King, pp. 381). ...



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