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The Portraiture of Women During the Italian Renaissance
By Rachel D. Masters
Honors Thesis, University of Southern Mississippi (2013)
Abstract: From research, it is clear that gender is one of the greatest influences on Italian Renaissance portraiture. Gender affects multiple aspects of portraiture including its function, position of sitter, emphasis of costume, and the degree to which a sitter is idealized. Until recent years, art historians performed little research on the subject of women as seen in Italian Renaissance paintings.
In the 1970s, scholars began to assess the representation of women from this time period using Renaissance treatises, recorded debates, and paintings. This study of the portraiture of women during the Italian Renaissance seeks to interpret the function of portraiture, the developments of the practice, and the idealization and profile position of the sitter as they relate to the status of women in Italian Renaissance society.
Data to conduct this study were collected using literature by art historians on the subject and by analyzing artwork on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibition “The Renaissance Portrait: From Donatello to Bellini” (December 21, 2011–March 18, 2012). Writings attributed to authors of Renaissance Italy were also evaluated in order to parallel the portrayal of women in Italian Renaissance portraiture to the social status and expectations of women in an Italian Renaissance society.