Page 1The naming of the Renaissance as a rebirth for humanity through enquiry and art is a broad term and we view its progress from our position, in a modern, world centuriesremoved and much coloured by our understandings and demands of societalstandards. A period in time occurs and is measured by what proceeded and whatfollows. If, as outlined in this essay, the portrayal of women during the Renaissance isa reflection of their societal roles then we need to see what it was that the societydemanded and understand that this was in essence a patrician mercantile society witha place for all in a hierarchy defined by power.
It must also be remembered that weare dealing with a certain class of women, those who were thought suitable for portrayal as identifiable individuals..The influence of literature in defining ,and changing, the roles and the ideal of renaissance women is highlighted by the works of Castiglione, specifically
and indeed the poetry of Petrarch and Dante
. Simons, in quoting Alberti,refers to the male requirement of virtue and good conduct as being of equal paritywith physical beauty
. The political and economic developments in Renaissance Italyand the position and expectations of women within that society are reflected in their artistic portrayals based on the growing humanist interpretations of society
. Thechaste and virtuous woman sought by Alberti is suggested by Petrarch in his sonnet155 and his distancing of woman from physical contact with “…Noli metangiere…”
. So, from the male viewers point of view what was required was a beautiful, chaste, virtuous and yet untouchable representation of a female who was inreality required to be touchable and fertile, because of the importance of continuing alineage
. In order to examine this further a selection of portraits from the period will
Bridenthal, R. & Koonz, C. eds.,
Becoming Visible: Women in European History,
Houghton Mifflin,1977. 140.
Broude, N. & Garrard, M.D. eds.,
The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History,
HarperCollins, 1992. 44.
Pearsall, D. ed.,
Chaucer to Spenser: An Anthology
, Blackwell, 1999.
Women in Italian Renaissance Art
, Manchester, 1997. 47.