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Lecture 004 - Heroic and Noble Women.docx

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Western University
Women's Studies
Women's Studies 2158A/B
Sonia Halpern

Heroic & Noble Women - Lecture 004 October 2, 2012 Outline Heroic (biblical) and Noble (Non-Biblical) Women I - Introduction II – Biblical Women 1. Suzannah &The Elders 2. Judith & Holofernes III – Non-Biblical 1. The Noble “Propositionee” th th th Images of Women in the Renaissance (15 and 16 c.) and Baroque Period (17 c.) - During this time period, it was men who were the established artists of these time periods - Women were denied any kind of art access or education in general th th - 15 and 16 c. one of the worst times for women in terms of their personal rights - If a woman did become an artist, it was usually because their father was already an artist and they had an “in” to the art world - When women did become professional artists, they typically had to conform to the styles and subjects that the men had established - Women generally were the models in art rather than the artists themselves; men in art institutions didn’t like women as artists, but didn’t mind them as models - More women depicted in art than creating it - When they were depicted in art, they were often nude o were not the upper-class women in society, were usually prostitutes who were already showing off their body, and being a nude model was akin to being a prostitute - Prescriptive Literature – whole body of literature that dictated to women how they should look and behave; end result being that they would be chaste, and pure, and modest - Modesty was the most virtuous characteristic for women - Books written by men detailing all kinds of specifics, such as how to pluck your eyebrows - Books directed to upper-class women, not the prostitutes or working class - The Venus (painting) – goddess of love in ancient mythology o Not a real person, but a pagan goddess o Not identified as individual people - Venus images – soft porn of the Renaissance period - Wealthy male patrons bought these works for their houses, usually the bedrooms – more for the point of titillation, erotic representation of women - Term Renaissance means ‘rebirth’, means rebirth of the classical period; there were a lot of Venus images - In the ancient period, the most popular Venus images were sculptures o Modest, one hand covering breast, one covering genitals (Venus of modesty type) o Image of a woman nude grabbing a towel in order to cover herself up (Venus of modesty type) - Renaissance borrowed the Venus from the classical period and left behind the modest component to create more erotic work to titillate male patrons buying the work - Neo-Platonic love – If you were a man, and you contemplated the image of a beautiful woman, that it would help you attain closeness with God o Logic is if God is the creator of all things beautiful, and there’s a beautiful woman in front of you, then you must contemplate that beautiful woman because God created it, and in doing so, it will bring you closer to God o Artists used this ideology to justify creating lots of nudes in the Renaissance period o Thought that women didn’t have the ability to attain closeness to God like men did - The direct (or confrontational) gaze – making eye contact with the viewer, tell-tale sign that she is trying to be sexually inviting - Long and flowing hair – seen as a sexualized quality that only your husband should see - Holding flowers suggesting sexuality; alluding to the garden of Eden, where Eve tempted Adam to sin - The reclining Venus type – makes you more accessible o Popularized in this period, contributes to the sexuality of the figure - Sheets are rumpled up, suggesting that sexual activity has taken place - Dogs symbolize loyalty; specifically loyalty to one’s husband, dog is asleep in this image, loyalty not strong suit of woman in this image o Titian (artist) Venus of Urbino, 1538 Venus & Cupid with a Partridge (Titian 1550) - Partridge = symbol of lust - Reclining woman, flowers, nude, son Cupid is bringing attention to breast area Venus & Cupid with an Organist (Titian) - Same idea, transparent cloth covering her genital area, not really covering much, Cupid with hand on mother’s breast, reclining Venus - In the Renaissance, music was seen as a precursor to sex; organ is contributing to the sexual content of the work Artemisia Gentileschi - Italian artist from Rome, father was a famous church decorator - Gentileschi accused her art tutor of raping her during one of their sessions; after the rape, she continued having consensual sex with him because he promised he was going to marry her - Law during this period stated that if a man raped a woman, he must marry her; because she wasn’t married, she was presumed to be a virgin - Her father sued him for the rape - In 1612, there was a big trial, evidence came out that the tutor raped Gentileschi and had a friend of his do it, and try to kill his wife and also had an affair with his sister-in-law - Did not want to conform to what male artists were doing; did not want to depict women the same way as male artists and show them as eroticized sex objects, wanted to show them as pro-active, in charge of their own destiny - Her desire to do this may have partly been because of the rape; many of her paintings show this quality of pro-active women before the rape Suzannah & the Elders th - Artists loved this subject in the 17 . C. because it was a story filled with sex and violence – good drama for visual images - Story that was once included in the Old Testament and later removed, because it was deemed inauthentic; call these kinds of stories apocryphal (hidden) - Woman named Suzannah married to a synagogue elder; was having a meeting at his house, but before the meeting was happening, Suzannah was bathing in her private garden - Two elders came to the house for the meeting and saw Suzannah bathing, stayed and watched her, then approached her and told her to have sex with them or they would tell everyone she had sex with a young man - Suzannah decided that being true to herself and husband was more important; elders told everyone they witnessed Suzannah having sex with a young man, and was being led to her death - Just as she was being led to her death, a young man named Daniel questions the two elders separately and notices that their stories didn’t match up - At the very last moment, Suzannah’s life was spared; moral of the story was that if you stayed true to your husband, God will reward you - Male artists tended to focus on different parts of the story than what Gentileschi focused on - Tintoretto – Suzannah and the Elders #1 (1555) o Elder grabbing breast, not resisting, letting him touch her breast while the second elder ogles her o Almost like she’s reaching to touch him, looks like she’s a willing participant in her own objectification and victimization o No real context for her nudity; no water or towel seen o Parallel being drawn with Eve as a temptress; Suzannah as a temptress for the men - Suzannah and the Elders – Gentileschi o Suzannah resisting elders, showing outward resistance (borrowed from Sistine
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