Feed on

here  it is… are you guys excited or WHAT?

I) Quick biography- would she have painted the way she did had she not been raped? (revisit later)

II) Written response- read bible exerpt and compare to painting

III) Treatment of theme- Artemisia vs. others

a) Carracci

b) Tintoretto

c) Rubens

d) Rembrandt

IV) Attribution- Artemisia vs. Orazio- active vs. passive women

a)      Orazio- Lute Player

1) Back to viewer

2) Looks like she might be playing, but look at her hands- slack, barely holding instrument

b) Artemisia- St Cecilia

1)      Standing vs. sitting

2)      Holds instrument firmly, like one would actually play

3)      Active where Orazio is passive

c) Orazio- Danae

1)      Passively reclining- letting the money come to her

2)      Nude idealized female form on display

d) Artemisia- Danae

1)      Realistic body- breasts actually hang rather than protrude

2)      GRASPS money, maid actively collecting in apron

V) Artemisia’s bio vs. her art

a) Could she have painted like this if she hadn’t been raped?

b) Would we think the same of her art if we didn’t know her story? Do we read too much into her because of that story?

VI) Wittkower/treatment in literature

a) Jacobs/ La Donnesca Mano

b) 1963 vs 1979…and how do we approach rape today?

the spacing got messed up a little bit… however it’s midnight and to be honest I can’t really be bothered with it right now.  See ya’ll in class!

Titian and the Venus Figure:

 The Male Gaze and Theme of the Female Nude in Titian’s Work


When looking among the vast array of Renaissance masters and artists who have shaped our understanding of what is art today, it is impossible to not look at the work of Titian. The Venetian colorist created numerous widely received works depicted various scenes of chaste saints, mythological allegories, as well as courtly portraiture. The overarching theme that resonates throughout almost all of Titian’s most famous pieces is the female nude. Titian’s depiction of the female body is seen as a watershed moment in art history in which the Venus or sensual female nude is shown in direct contrast to the previous Venus archetype; in many works, she is not hiding her nudity, as in the Medici Venus,[1] but rather drawing attention to it.

Through examining Titian’s depictions of le belle donne and Venus figures in the Venus of Urbino, its predecessor, Profane and Sacred Love, as well as examining works that came before and after, Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus and Manet’s Olympia, in relation to Titian’s work can the theme of female nudity be positioned in its rightful historic and social context. Analyzing the environments in which these works came out of, as well as the patronage behind them, will give significance and thematic context to the role of women as muse and subject.

Interpreting these works through a feminist art historical lens will allow for greater explanation of the iconography surrounding the nude that has become so ingrained in our vocabulary today. With questions about whether the Venus figures in Titian’s work are courtesans, prostitutes, or noble women put into an understanding and social background as to whether these were issues of Titian’s time or fabrications or interpretations of the 19th century. This approach will be guided to answer the complications of whether Titian’s work was meant to be erotic and if so, who was the audience. While Titian’s Venus of Urbino became infamously known as a prototype of sorts for arousing the beholder sexually, it is unclear whether this was the artist’s intention or not.

It will also be important to look at other sources for this shift from the penitent and chaste woman to the sexually charged Venus in the neoplatonic works of Ovid and Petrarch. Both widely read during Titian’s time, these poets serve as an example of the role of poetry and literature on artists, as the expression of beauty for beauty’s sake, and love as a romantic ideal, became popular notions beyond a sense of filial love and obligation.

Finally, an exploration of the formal qualities of Titian’s Venuses will serve to further evaluate the position of the nude as part of the male gaze. Titian was one of the first artists to depict a reclining nude actively gazing back at the audience as her hand suggestively lingers. A problematic composition, it would be interesting to note how members of the wealthy class who would be viewing this painting received it as well as the gender relations behind who could or could not view it.





[1] Goffen, Titian’s Venus of Urbino, p. 6.

Artemisia Gentileschi


Question prompt before discussion:

Take 5- 10 minutes and reread the biblical source on the story of Susanna and the Elders and write down a response comparing Artemisia’s interpretation and treatment of the story in her painting. How is her work true to the biblical reference and in what ways has she adapted the narrative?

  • Ask someone to review the biblical story


Question to keep in mind to go back to:

With all the information we now know about Artemisia’s life could she have painted this work without having experienced the trauma of rape?



Main points from Garrard:

  • Attribution of Susanna and the Elders, 1610, Pommersfelden, Schloss Weissenstein, Collection Dr. Karl Graf von Schonborn (Brooklyn Museum), to Artemisia Gentileschi based on stylistic grounds
    • Variations in style and treatment of theme between Orazio and Artemisia
  • Q: How has the story of Susanna and the Elders been reinterpreted by other artists compared to Artemisia? (Ex: architectural elements, such as foliage as a symbol for women as wild and untamed sexuality)
    • Legitimizing voyeurism
    • Opportunity to display the female nude (similar to Danae and Lucretia)
  • Tintoretto, Susanna and the Elders, 1555-56. Vienna, Kunsthistoriches Museum.
      • Q: What does the moment in time depicted or the placement of figures say about the artist?
  • Peter Paul Rubens, Susanna and the Elders, 1636- 40. Munich, Alte Pinakothek.
    • Comparision to Eve. Rubens includes an apple tree in the garden instead of the oak or mastic.
      • Q: How does this change or impact his interpretation of Susanna’s character in the narrative? (Refer to pg. 153).
  • Rembrandt, Susanna and the Elders, 1647. Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz.
    • Medici Venus as synonymous with female sexuality
      • Roman Sarcophagus, Orestes Slaying Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, detail, Rome, Museo Profano Lateranense.
  • Compare gestures in Orazio Gentileschi, David and Goliath, ca. 1605- 1610. Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland and Artemisia Gentileschi’s Susanna figure
  • Q: Is it true that only a woman could have painted a nude female figure so naturally?
    • (Realism unflattering by conventional standards: lines in her neck, groin wrinkle, crow’s feet).
  • Q: Compare and contrast Orazio’s and Artemisia’s treatment of the female body in both versions of Judith and Her Maidservant (Orazio Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant, 1610-12, Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, and Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant, 1625. The Detroit Institute of Arts).
  • Q: How do we reconcile the painting’s date as 1610 and the rape in 1611? Do you agree with the author’s argument?


Main points from Wittkower:

  • Artemisia’s rape is seen as a violation of Orazio’s property
  • Tassi’s infamy as a “bad boy” of painting. He is described as quick witted. His cavalier and indifferent attitude about the allegations keeps his patrons in support of his work. He even renews his friendship with Orazio after referring to him as his enemy
    • Q: How is Artemisia seen in comparison? [She has no agency; she is a victim with no voice].
  • Q: How has the prosecution and assumptions about rape changed today?
  • Q: How is she rendered in the film? Tassi remarks in the third paragraph on the first page that he had to “calm her,” implying the connotation of a mad out of control woman. Does her depiction in the film confirm or contradict this assumption?
  • Q: P. 163 “Honorable career and precocious girl?” What is the author saying here?

Further questions for discussion:

  • Woman as her own acting agent (Artemisia writing letters to patrons in the movie). How does this compare to Vittoria Colonna as a patron in the Magdalen article? How did they exercise control in a male dominated society?
    • How are the themes of shame, honor, and reputation imbedded in these women’s experiences?
  • How would Vasari characterize Artemisia? Would he wash over details similar to Properzia de’Rossi? What artist would she be most similar to that we’ve discussed in class?
  • How does an artist inject their own life, agenda or social context into a work of art?
  • What would Jacobs say? The feminine hand?
  • How has rape been glamorized in the works we looked at? [Daring and noble adventure, heroic position it has occupied in mythic tradition, colonization].
  • How do we have to rework the canon of Western art history now that works originally attributed to fathers and husbands are being reattributed to women?



  • Artemisia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders, 1610, Pommersfelden, Schloss Weissenstein, Collection Dr. Karl Graf von Schonborn (Brooklyn Museum).
  • Tintoretto, Susanna and the Elders, 1555-56. Vienna, Kunsthistoriches Museum.
  • Peter Paul Rubens, Susanna and the Elders, 1636- 40. Munich, Alte Pinakothek.
  • Rembrandt, Susanna and the Elders, 1647. Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz.
  • Roman Sarcophagus, Orestes Slaying Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, detail, Rome, Museo Profano Lateranense.
  • Orazio Gentileschi, David and Goliath, ca. 1605- 1610. Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland.
  • Orazio Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant, 1610-12, Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum.
  • Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant, 1625. The Detroit Institute of Arts.

Discussion Outline for Revolution of Female Clothing and a Response to Sumptuary Laws

  1. I.            Introduction of Articles
    1. Frick Article
      1. i.      Carol Ellison
  2. Breward Articles
    1. i.      Lindsay Evans
  3. Sumptuary Laws
    1. i.      Amy Doyel
    2. II.            Frick Article
      1. Summary:  This article shows how women were portrayed in the Renaissance through the artwork that the male members of their families commissioned.  Most of the artwork shown as examples in this article are by Ghirlandaio especially his work with the Sassetti and Tornabuoni families’ chapels.
      2. List of Images:
        1. i.      Visitation
          1. Ghirlandaio
          2. 1485-1490
          3. Santa Maria Novella
          4. Portraits: Giovanna degli Albizzi, Ginevra Gianfigliazzi, and Lucrezia Tornabuoni (patron’s daughter)
    3. ii.      Resurrection of the Notary’s Son
      1. Ghirlandaio
      2. 1479-1485
      3. Santa Trinità
      4. Shows contrast between male and female clothing
  4. Discussion Points:
    1. i.      How vanity could be shown through women but not men?
      1. Original sin
    2. ii.      Women represented as symbols for the family (logo)
      1. Women are objects
      2. Show family wealth and status
    3. iii.      Women are segregated from men
    4. III.            Breward Articles
      1. Summary:  These chapters explain how clothing became more than just something to cover ones bodies.  It states that in the Middle Ages most women were in charge of making their own clothing and there were not many restrictions on what they could wear.  The quality of their clothing was determined through economic means, therefore you could still distinguish between social classes.  Then the Renaissance gave rise to an upper middle class consisting mostly of merchants and tradesman.  It therefore became harder to distinguish between the social classes and to maintain the order of society restrictions on dress and wealth were issued.
      2. Lists of Images:
        1. i.      Portrait of Elizabeth, Queen of England
          1. School of Marcus Gaeraerts the Younger
          2. 1558
          3. Shows that even without sumptuary laws, women had restrictions and conformed to the latest styles
    5. ii.      Charles I
      1. Anthony van Dyck
      2. 1636
      3. Louvre
      4. Showed contrast between male and female clothing styles
  5. Discussion Points:
    1. i.      Why women conformed to clothing styles that might be detrimental to their health? (example: corsets)
    2. ii.      The failure of the Breward articles
    3. iii.      Advertisements for marriage
    4. IV.            Sumptuary Laws
      1. Summary:  This article described how sumptuary laws came into existence and their prevalence in Mediterranean culture.  It showed that these laws came into existence in order to distinguish social classes.  It also described many of the laws that restricted female dress.  These laws became obsolete quickly and were difficult to enforce.
      2. Discussion Points:
        1. i.      Why the municipal governments issued these and not ecclesiastical (church) and royal law-makers?
          1. Enforcement of social classes
    5. ii.      Discussion of restrictions
      1. Ornaments
      2. Colors
      3. Etc …
    6. iii.      Difference in restrictions between prostitutes and moral women
    7. iv.      Why there were few restrictions on men?
      1. Todi law
    8. v.      Exemptions to these laws
      1. “wives and daughters of knights, noblemen, doctors of law, and physicians”

Sorry guys for the weird spacing on the numbers.  Hope our discussion didn’t bore you too badly.

Paper Proposal

In the years between the two World Wars, Surrealist photographer Claude Cahun explored the conceptions of identity within and through her various mise-en-scènes.  Often the subject herself, Cahun assumed many guises, creating images that reflected back onto the viewer questions about gender and role expectations.[1]  While her photographs do succeed in making a statement, a very personal air remains of them.  In rejecting normative gender behavior and appropriating a masquerade of multiple identities, Claude Cahun reveals her intent to return to her personal reality through the Surreal.

            Relatively little is known about Claude Cahun’s personal life, therefore it proves difficult to relate her work to her life.  However, this aspect should not be overlooked, especially considering her obscurity following the Second World War.  This fact shall also be explored, how such a controversial artist remained essentially forgotten for much of the twentieth century.  As one of the few women Surrealists, Cahun holds importance for she questioned the reality of gender, a topic that still remains subversive today.   Her relationship within the predominantly male Surrealist community will be explored as well.  In defining Surrealism as “the denaturalization of vision, an uncompromisingly anti-realist bias, and most programmatically, access to unconscious processes and the aleatory,”[2] one may ask if the emphasis on the Unconsious allowed Cahun the freedom to explore her true identity or identities in its primitive state, unfettered by the notion of gender standards. 

            While only basic research has been accomplished thus far, I intend to study works by Cahun herself, such as Aveux non avenues and Les paris sont ouverts in an attempt to understand her thoughts directly.  I will also be studying Joan Rivière’s “Womanliness as Masquerade,” and how she interprets Cahun’s notions on gender.  I intend on consulting many more sources through research, however at this stage I wish to remain more broad with my investigations.  I would like to conduct this paper using a combination of a feminist and social history perspective, as I feel that I must have a greater understanding of the time to truly appreciate her work.  In my research thus far, I have noted that she is often compared to the artist Cindy Sherman[3] and would like to explore why contemporary art historians connect the two.

            In researching Claude Cahun, I hope to acquire a better understanding  the artist’s intent and how she was viewed by her contemporaries and non-contemporaries, and what that says the viewer, or society as a whole.


[1]             Katy Kline, “In or Out of the Picture: Claude Cahun and Cindy Sherman,” Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism, and Self-Representation (1998): 68.


[2] Ibid., 74.

[3] Ibid., 77-80.

I am proud to say I am an avid feminist.  That having been said, I naturally gravitated toward the feminist movement when deciding what I would write my paper on this semester.  Judy Chicago is my heroine, a woman who broke boundaries with her feminist attitudes and set fires in the chairs of her superiors for questioning the norms.

Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” is the iconic symbol of the 1970s feminist movement, a celebration of female empowerment and sexuality. It is a cultivation of thousands of years of female achievement that has largely been ignored, in an effort to praise women in a way that our patriarchal society has brushed over because of their gender.  The grand scale of the work, in addition to the numerous people that worked with Chicago on the piece, solidifies its place in the feminist revolution as a symbol of the hard work and accomplishments of women throughout time.  The sexual imagery present, from the triangularly shaped table symbolizing the uterus to the vaginal imagery painted on top of the dinner plates, is both empowering for a viewer to experience and for Chicago herself, as she writes:

I tried to create an active vaginal or vulval form to represent my sense of my own identity and sexuality. …It took me years to create images that could convey the idea that the female body experience is as active and as central to what it means to be human as is that of the male, and, in fact, can be explored aesthetically as one pathway to an understanding of the universal.  Long before I began The Dinner Party, I had been struggling to anthropomorphize the vulval form, transforming it into numerous motifs suggesting flower, cave, flesh, or landscape.  When fused with the butterfly formation, this image became a metaphor for an assertive female identity as well as the visual base for many of the transmuting forms on the plates.[1]

Chicago uses vaginal imagery as a means of exploring her own sexuality and identity, something I will explore in my term paper.  Female genitalia symbology in art history was ubiquitous during this decade, and I intend on discussing why that is.  I will give a brief overview of Chicago’s earlier accomplishments, and focus primarily on the history behind the project, how it evolved, and who was involved with Chicago’s workshop.  I will also discuss the criteria Chicago enlisted when choosing what women to feature throughout history, and her reasoning behind the decision to stop with women after WWII.  Chicago chose mostly white females, largely ignoring a variety of other racially diverse women that should or should have been included.  The argument can be made: is art history for white females only?  How does the feminist art history movement apply to the other feminist movements occurring in the 1970s?  I would like to address this issue, researching it further to develop an opinion and see how it can fit into my argument.

[1] Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party (New York: Penguin Books, 1996), 6.

Paper Proposal

I keep forgetting to put this up!

How Women Are Portrayed in Animation

            Animation, to many people, is just for children.  But this belief is not true.  Many animated movies go beyond the realm of “kids movies” and convey deeper meanings and look into different cultures.  By looking into these films, how are women portrayed in them? To do this I will look at the top three animation companies – Disney, Pixar and Studio Ghibli – to compare and contrast how women are portrayed in their feature films.

            Disney, the oldest of the three companies starting in 1937, has its share of problems with portraying women in their films.  Many of the early main female characters are put into that stereotypical damsel in distress box. They usually a princess or of noble standing, are pretty in looks and basically pretty in usefulness too.  It was only until the late 90s did Disney begin to really break away with this ideal with Mulan, but since then have marketed her as the Chinese equivalent to the collection of white princesses.  Another topic I will also look in to is the case of Disney’s missing mothers, which seems to be quite the mystery.

            Though Pixar is the youngest of the bunch, it still has produced classic films one after another.  One of Pixar’s strong suits is in the stories they create strong and lasting stories with original characters and destinations. One thing that many have begun to notice though is that out of the ten movies Pixar has created, none of them are centered around a female lead.  It’s not that Pixar doesn’t have any women in their movies.  It’s quite the opposite.  It’s just that the women are the secondary characters and help move the plot.  Even though the female characters are taking the backseat,  they are still portrayed as strong and independent individuals.  They are such wonderful characters…now if only they would get a movie of their own.  For now we’ll just have to wait till 2011 for Pixar’s first female lead in the Bear and the Bow.

            Studio Ghibli is not very well known in the United States but the company is growing in popularity with the mainstream releases of their newer movies by Disney.   One of the main differences between Ghibli and the other two companies is that out of the eighteen main full length Ghibli has produced, twelve are centered around main female character.  Hayao Miyazaki, one of the founders of Studio Ghibli, is also a feminist who reflects this into his works and ideas and even into his workspace.  Ghibli does something else differently with their female characters too, they aren’t just seen as females.  They are strong, individual characters with faults and personalities that everyone can identify and cheer for. 

                  By looking at each of these animation companies and their films, we will be able to see how each company has the different takes on female characters. The range of female characters in each company is amazing and I really look forward to doing this paper.

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Megan Borders

Art History 460 – Women and Western Art

Paper Proposal

Women Behind the Lens

As an art history major, I look at images of paintings, drawings, and sculpture just about every single day.  And while I have a great appreciation and love for many of those works, nothing can tug at my heartstrings quite like a simple, black and white photograph. On top of that, there’s just something about a woman taking these beautiful photographs that makes it all the more interesting to me.  Perhaps that has to do with my taking beginning and intermediate photography at East Carolina University, and being fortunate enough to have an absolutely brilliant female instructor.  She taught myself as well as the rest of her students how to appreciate a photograph and look deeper into the meaning behind it.  It’s because of her I developed a new sense of appreciation for art in general, but especially photography, and especially photographs females have produced. So, I’ve got the appreciation and admiration, but I don’t have much knowledge about the history of female photographers in general. It’s because of this that I’m looking forward to researching them and how they made names for themselves in the photography world.  My paper won’t dive very heavily into the women being portrayed in photographs (i.e. models, fashion or commercial photography) but will focus on the women behind the lens, their journey so far through photography’s short history, and any gender issues, if any, they’ve had to face. While I am very interested in contemporary female photographers, I too am interested in the women who took on photography when it was still very new.  I would like to look at how far female photographers have come since then, and address any problems or obstacles they faced, if any, being females.  A question I will attempt to answer through my research will be “Is photography a man’s world, like painting and sculpture has been for centuries?” To me, photography is different than painting and sculpture in that it really isn’t so much about a person’s god given “genius” talent, or even how much training they have had, but more about their eye and what they are trying portray through a certain image.  I believe women and men can be equally great photographers, and even though in today’s world I can’t imagine a woman having a harder time in photography, I’m sure they had struggles being taken seriously as opposed to men of the same profession, just like countless other female artists have for centuries. Therefore, gender issues in photography will obviously be a part of my paper, and something that will take quite a bit of researching.

Since documentary photography is at the top of my interests, I would like to spend some time discussing contemporary women in this profession.  So far in my research I’ve looked at a handful of works by some of National Geographic’s Women Photographers, such as Jodi Cobb, Karen Kasmauski, Maria Stenzel, Annie Griffiths Belt, and Sisse Brimberg.  These are strong, intelligent and talented women and I think they would be perfect examples of what I’m trying to look at in my paper.

As of right now I’m in the preliminary stage of my research, looking mainly at female photographers in general, although I’ve looked at a handful of female artists up-close.  As I dive further into my research I will be able to narrow my focus down, and possibly develop a clean time line approach, focusing in on certain important female photographers along the way. And of course, I will attempt to determine once and for all what role gender has played throughout the history of photographers.

Julia Margaret Cameron Paper Proposal

Julia Margaret Cameron was an amateur photographer in Victorian England and India during the nineteenth century.  Cameron is most well known for her portraits of both men and women.  She did a fair amount of portraits of the leading men in the bohemian culture in England but I am going to focus on the women she portrayed in her photographs.  Cameron depicted the men very different than the women in portraits she took.  It was the culture and society in Victorian England that drove Cameron to portray the women the way she did.

During the Victorian time period women were still restricted to the life of being a wife and mother.  Cameron was married and raised eleven children and was completely devoted to her life as mother and wife so it is no surprise that women, children and family are often subjects of her photographs.  Also during this time period mythology, the theatre and literature were all the rage.  Therefore, Cameron depicts many of the women as mythological, theatrical or literary subjects.  Religion was also a large part of life during this time period and Cameron was a devote Christian.  So along with her depictions of women as mythological or contemporary figures in theatre and literature she also portrays women as some figures in the bible such as the Virgin Mary.

Julia Margaret Cameron lived and worked during a period in history where women were expected to fill many different roles in life and were restricted in the things they did.  Cameron rose above some of the restrictions imposed on women by becoming a photographer but her subject matter was still portraying women as the ideal Victorian woman, not as women breaking free from these restrictions.

Kahlo’s Broken Column is what first drew my attention to this topic.  I have always enjoyed Kahlo’s work but I knew little about her until I saw this piece in a book and was taken aback by the brutality of the scene.  She depicts herself with her bare torso bound by a painful body cast, while a cruel rend in her body exposes her spine, which has been replaced by stone column broken in several pieces, symbolizing the consequences of the terrible bus accident of her youth.  The nails that pierce her flesh allude to her constant suffering from surgery after surgery to fix her broken body.   I read on to learn about her lifetime of pain and illness and how it shaped herself and her art, which lead me to consider to what extent it defined her.  This preoccupation in her portraiture of her own pain and suffering have led some critics to question whether or not she has become such a popular and well-known artist due to her personal tragedy or the quality of her work.

In my paper I will examine the following:   how the illness and injury suffered by Kahlo throughout her life define the expression of her sexuality and unique personal symbolism that characterize her self portraits, if her health problems define her sexuality and self image to the point that it cannot be ignored in an examination of her body of portraiture, and whether her interest in depicting women and her own sexuality in such an honest (at times bordering on grotesque) way are defined solely by the accident which left her with severe damage to her uterus and probable infertility.  I will also analyze several of Kahlo’s self portraits from a feminist and psychoanalytical perspective, as well as in the context of her personal symbolic vocabulary, to illustrate how her sexuality as depicted in her art is defined by the mental and physical trauma of her injuries and to examine why she wanted her audience to view her this way.

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