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Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Bloopers: Shrew Businessmen and Compliant Women

These have been anonymously contributed to arttrav and compiled by yours truly.

Shrew Businessmen and Compliant Women: the gender roles of happy contigues in renaissance art.

Way back in the Renaissance, things were different for women, but not different enough. As men created the Renaissance, therefore it was then dedicated to the focus and domination of men. The ideal Renaissance man was a shrew businessman and warrior. He was depicted as a free-ranging man of multifaceted excellence.

By and large, the female was depicted as being completely defined by her husband’s affairs and exploits. The wife was “taught how to be obedient” (Alberti, Della famiglia, 212); house-trained, like a dog. Women were shown as chased figures with chastidy. The most common virtuous role for a woman was to marry and have babies to a well-to-do man on earth: they were the children barriers in the marriage. A virtuous woman was expected to have chastidy, compliance [what, ISO 9000?], and modesty. Her role is based on and delegated by male ideals. This delegation may be seen as necessary for a couple to be happy contigues [sic] when laurel is just not enough.

Renaissance art shows some of the sexual roles assigned to woman. A popular painting subject of the time is the sensuous female figure. Sensous, that is, for the anonymous viewer. Bellini and Giorgione had to paint a nude female as unaware of her lack of clothing. Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” is shown as an object of a chased marriage. In Bellini’s “Lady with a Mirror” from 1515, there is a bit of fabric that covers her somewhat but also serves to lead the eye to the swimsuit regions. Venetians invented the “one boob portrait”. [Venetian sensuality is different from Tuscan linearity.] Indeed, modern female body builders often look like they are smuggling oranges beneath their bikini’s much in the way breasts look on Michelangelo’s women.

In conclusion, women were glorified in paintings for their magnificent virtues and demoralized for acts that were not accepted. Enforcement of ideals met with widespread passiveness.

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.