Emma Rose Barber, 10 June 2004, uploaded by Dick Motino


1. Early 14th C - females endured controlled life-style - girls normally married by 15, and were constantly 'tested' for their behavior/comportment.  READ Boccaccio's 'tale of Griselda' for background.  Also: will check with Emma Rose, as to how accurate is history-based fiction BIRTH OF VENUS I'm now reading

     o  Women from wealthy and successful families had power in convents - brought

         dowry which gave them 'push'; many active in community activities - nursing, etc. 

         Served as models for exemplary way of life.

     o  Art of Lorenzetti's = expressive angels and real portraits.  In Ghirlandaio's SMN

         frescoes, domestic motifs strongly stressed, yet only incidental to 'story.'

     o  By 15thC, women were writing poetry and humanist dialogs, many of them

         published.  Those from rich families of great position, or rich-widowed, could afford

         to commission artists (donatrix). 

     o  Drving force:  Obedience to God, and to man!  When included in painting as

         donatrix - modest, mostly black, attire and unassuming attitude.


2.  14thC homes had 'holy corner' in bedroom where girls/women kept their religious and personal articles;  often cassones that held variety of 'things.'   Painted scenes on cassone usually related to marriage/married life; sometimes cassone was gift from male, in appreciation for dowry from bride's family.  Palazzo Davanzati presents 'real' picture of home life at the time, and illustrates prescribed role for girls/women.


3.  15thC - huge market for religious items, images, crucifixes, rosaries - these demands "made' the della Robbia's.  Women's chambers  became highly decorated; cassones and lettucios (daybeds) were decorative as well as functional.


4.  Prescribed role for 15C woman: emphasis on meekness, modesty, 'keep everything'  covered and eyes lowered; assume/project demure and reticent manner

     o Chastity encouraged above all - avoid all 'exposure' by staying away from window

        openings, avoiding feasts, streets, public encounters, confrontations.

     o Women's portraits of the period usually profile; occasional turn toward viewer, but

        direct eye-contact normally avoided, more modest composure/attire emphasized;

        self-effacing.  EXCEPTION:  Lippo Lippi's paintings of Lucretia Buti as Madonna;

        she's deliberately presented as lovely young woman in simple but elegant finery.

        The 2 met, she a nun and he a monk, in Prato at Feast of the Girdle (familiar?) and

        began scandalous affair for which they might have faced terrible fates, but for help

        of Cosimo/Elder, who appreciated genius of Lippo.

    o Sumptuary Laws in Florence decreed modesty in dress and behavior for women but

       ladies did not always comply.  At the time, notion was that women were easy

       targets for idolatry:  They were advised to kneel before crucifix rather than

       focus on the young male-saint images they seemed to  prefer.


5. Convents in 15C

    o There were thousands of nuns in Florence, more than monks.  Ans 10% or more

       commissions for Art came from women.  Santa Felicita Benedictine nunnery -       

       cloistered life for wealthy women who commissioned mss's elaborately illustrating 

       martyrdom of sons of Santa Felicita.  (Church of Santa Felicita built over antique

       Roman church, and contains chapel whose walls are decorated with Pontormo's


    o Nuns served as models for prayer and the prayerful life;  felt prayer was essential as

       deliverer from Black Death and for after-life (Last Judgment).  Penitence was the  

       road toto a place in Heaven.  Thus, these nuns came to be considered good



6.  Women of Power, their Orders, & their Recognition (became ideal for all women) 

     o Catherine of Siena became a Dominican, renouncing wealth/position of family and

        embracing active concer in 'community.'  Went to Avignon to convince Pope to

        return to Rome, which he did, assuring her 'place.'  Mystic marriage with Jesus. 

        Hers was a sainted life - received stigmata, and enjoyed great recognition.

     o Catherine of Alexandria, another strong persona.  Like the Sienese Catherine, of

        impressive intellect and very assertive.  But this Catherine was indeed martyred.

     o St. Clare also of good family - renounced weaalth/position to embrace the

        Christian way of life exemplified by close friend St. Francis of Assisi.  Although

        bedridden last 20 years of life, she continued to run her convent effectively. Was

        canonized within two years of her death.

     o Saint Umilita ('Blessed Humility'), born Roseanasa of noble family in 1226, married

        and bore 2 sons both of whom died after baptism.  Wife/mother/nun

              - in 1250 she and husband took vows of chastity: she became nun (known as

                Umilita), he a monk in double monastery of St. Perpetua.

              - illiterate until, in fun, the sisters asked her to read; she spoke words of 'the

                highest things' and so was taught to read/write in Latin.

              - overtaken with cancer, her flesh began to rot. Umilita had vision aadvising her

                to travel - so she went to island of St. Martin where, received by Sister

                Phillippa, Umilita was set up in sealed room, living on bread/water/herbs.

              - Cancer arrested, she began healing, sometimes miraculously as with

                Vallumbrusian monk she saved, by crossing herself, from having his

                feet amputated.

             -  Vallombrosans built her a windowed cell from which she gave counsel for 28

                years.  In 1266, she was named Abbess of 1st Vallombrosan  convent that

                which was sacked 0in 1281. 

             -  Fled to Florence with the aim 'to end feud between Guelphs/Ghibelline's. 

                Began convent dedicated to John/Evangelist, where she revived a dead child;

                convent, designed by Nicola Pisano, was founded in 1282.

             -  In 1300, at age of 74, she was overcome by high fever and lost mobility. 

                Wished to die on a Friday and did, on 22 May 1310.  Bishop presided at her


             -  1313-1348, the Lorenzetti's did scenes illustrating her life, and Orcagna did

                statue of her, now in church of San Michele at San Salvi.