History 2185 Lecture Notes - Sandro Botticelli, Masculinity, Courtly Love

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31 Jan 2013
Oct, 29, 2012
The Renaissance
-Looking at 15th-16th century Italy (focus on Renaissance) and England (focus on Reformation)
-We look to Italy for evidence of the Renaissance period (Renaissance means rebirth)
-It was a rebirth and return to classical culture (ancient Greece and Rome) and this was very respected and put on
a pedestal
-Italy was the centre of artistic cultural production in Europe and all of the arts highlighted this emphasis on
classical cultures
-Renaissance artists admired stoicism seen in classical art and the dignity of their culture and this meant that the
emphasis was on balance, order, and harmony
-Renaissance artists believed all cultural production after the classical period was inferior and they wanted to
mimic them
-Women at the time really were seen as not existing because of the Greek and Roman practice where women were
not citizens and whatever gains women made in the medieval period were lost in the Renaissance
-In the middle ages women in some cases were allowed to own land, pursue education, etc but during the
Renaissance this was reverse and their social standing was worse
-Midwives were trained before by their mothers but in the Renaissance it became more professional and many
women could not go to school to practice it
-Courtly love was substituted by the emphasis on public life and civic duty because this was valued in ancient times
-This meant a culture once concerned with the feminine was displaced with more ideas of the masculine and thus
women could not participate and they were confined to their houses and their activities were limited
-The dictates of the ancient period relating to sexuality were carried over to the Renaissance and women were
regarded as inferior, more sinful, and more lustful
-They were supposed to be sexually passive even though they were thought of as more lustful and they were
supposed to be chaste before marriage
-They were to be faithful wives, have sex only for procreation, and there were limitations on when they could
participate in sex
-As in the medieval period the public humiliation continued as a form of punishment for women who did not
conform and for adultery men might have been fined or jailed and women were publicly whipped while partly
-1480-1550 in Venice not one husband was convicted of adultery but many wives were and husbands had the right
to kick out their convicted wives from their homes but women could not do the same
-Constraints were not so strong for lower class women because society didn’t really care about them as much and
their work lives meant they were interacting more with men and it was a necessary evil that they had to interact in
the public sphere but this was not appropriate for upper class women
-Prostitutes were seen as a necessary evil and they provided an important social function because they would
inhibit greater sins of men (adultery was defiling another man’s wife, and sodomy was what homosexuality was
referred to as)
-In the early Renaissance there was a tolerance for prostitution and the state established municipally funded
brothels so they could profit from it but later society got stricter about their presence and the more tolerant
attitude changed
-It was perceived that prostitution was on the rise and the establishments were becoming more visible and this
was embarrassing for city officials and there were many rules put in place for these women
-Young women who were not prostitutes or upper class often joined convents and this was helpful for those who
were thought of as unmarriageable (not married by the age of 18, unattractive, barren, etc)
-Convents were seen as places where misbehaving women could be whipped into shape and they were cloistered
so the number of women joining swelled greatly
-Many people joined willingly for the ideas of chastity but others were forced by parents for financial reasons
-Theoretically they were committing their lives to chastity but many really had rich sexual lives with other men and
-A major event shaping female sexuality that was shaped by negative attitudes was the European witch craze in
the middle 15th-early 16th century
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Oct, 29, 2012
-Witches were identified as women in most cases and they were seen as having made a pact with the devil
(dancing with him and having sex)
-Women had been accused through the middle ages but now they were really hunted down and in Venice
between 1550-1650 69% of accused witches were female (224 men, 490 women)
-In other areas the numbers were more staggering and in Essex England in 1560-1675 the percentage of accused
women was at 93% (23 men, 290 women)
-The over all percentage throughout the Renaissance in Europe was 75 %
-All it took was a complaint from a husband or a neighbour and the accused women were stripped and searched by
officials (all men) for what was called the devil’s mark and this was any form birthmark or defect (most times
marks were referred to as an extra nipple)
-Most women did have something on their body that could be interpreted in this way so they were very vulnerable
-Among the women most accused were midwives and healers and this was because they were not using only
God’s power to help people, they were present for many fatal childbirths and they were blamed, and men did not
like women having the power to help themselves
-Older women were also commonly accused because they were seen as dispensable and many were widows and
women without men to control them were seen as suspicious, they could take their land from them if convicted,
and often they were seen as dispensable because they were past their prime and could no longer produce children
-The poor were also accused because they were a financial burden as well as aggressive outspoken women who
did not conform to gender ideals
-This is seen by some as the deliberate effort to create disempowered women and to get rid of expendables and it
is sometimes referred to as the female holocaust or gynacide (women killing)
-Over the 14th-16th century there were 110,000 trials and 50,000 executions
-As in Greece men had more sexual freedom even though monogamy was valued and they were not required to be
virgins before marriage and many slept with servants and prostitutes
-Men got married in their late twenties while their wives were teenagers and thus they made more time to fool
around before marriage
-Masculinity and dominance were tied to potency and same sex relations were thus taboo unlike in Greece
-We know sodomy happened frequently because it was heavily penalized in the courts and we see the records
-By the time a man was 40 he would have witnesses 2/3 men accused of sodomy because it was so heavily policed
-As in Greece sodomy was temporary and didn’t replace a relationship with a woman and the older man was seen
as in control
-Homosexuality was punished but it was especially objected to when the older man was in the submissive role
-Women who were raped as long as they were upper class and conformed to gender roles usually weren’t blamed
for what happened to them
-The higher the status of the women and greater the punishment for the man but raping a virgin got you the
highest punishment you could get because you were ruining the girl for any man who would want to marry her
-There was no punishment for men who raped prostitutes and servants
-Women who took their rapists to court had to prove their innocence by proving their status or by proving they
were a virgin before the rape occurred
-Rape was not confined to grown women and there were many charges of people raping boys and girls between
the ages of 6-12
-From 1495-1515 in Florence over 1/3 of reported rape victims were girls between the ages of 6-12
The Ideal Woman:
-The ideal woman was always shown as beautiful because of the ideas of neo-platonic love
where if men pondered beautiful women they got closer to god
-This was thought of as true because god created all beautiful things so it made sense to think
about it but of course there was no equivalent for women because it was believed they could
not have that type of close relationship with god
-Because of this idea men made many paintings of women in the nude like the Venus of Urbino who is shown
“covering” her genitals but because she looks so relaxed it suggests masturbation and that she is tempting men
-Her gaze stairs right out at the male viewers and she looks inviting and her long hair signifies heightened sexuality
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