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Conclusions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2022

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Summary

Abstract

This book has mapped the aesthetic and conceptual characteristics of fifteenthcentury Netherlandish and Italian individual female portraiture on panel. These images represent the early modern form of the genre, stimulated by the sociopolitical rise of a new entrepreneurial oligarchy. The power structure of this oligarchy was androcentric. Thus, these portraits are also a window into women's lives in this structure. This book is the first systematic study of their sign-system, and the feminine experience of seeing and being seen within the patriarchal matrix. This conclusive chapter summarises my findings with further clarifications when appropriate. Its coda is a new interpretation of the iconic Arnolfini double portrait. This panel symbolises early Netherlandish portraiture at its best but also portrays an Italian couple. Its technical and iconographical merits combine the lavishness and sobriety of Italian and Netherlandish cultures. Perhaps it tells a marital story that is yet to be deciphered. It is therefore the fitting synthesis of everything discussed hitherto.

Key words: Arnolfini – Feminism – Gender – Patriarchy – Masculinity

In the Middle Ages, what we now call the genre of portraiture had been the privilege of the aristocracy. Its purpose was essentially dynastic. By the end of the fourteenth century, patronage networks founded by a growing entrepreneurial oligarchy became central instruments of statecraft. As their economic and political power increased, this new estate outgrew their subsidiary role to the aristocracy, in fact subordinating the latter to dependence on their own administrative and economic expertise. It was in the fifteenth century that this phenomenon reached its maturity, emanating from the highly urbanised areas of Italy and Flanders. The modernisation of the genre is linked to the socio-cultural refinement of this oligarchy.

The organisation of powers followed a practice rooted in Graeco-Roman and Judeo-Christian patriarchal traditions. Patriarchy is an androcentric system that leads to extreme forms of female subjugation. At the time of writing, it is still the transnational sociocultural hegemony. Political leadership is still largely male and, therefore, legal and cultural discourse is still male-driven. Studies on female physiology are predominantly in the hand of male medical specialists, and women are included notably less than men in trial studies on humans.

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Netherlandish and Italian Female Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century
Gender, Identity, and the Tradition of Power
, pp. 195 - 210
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Conclusions
  • Elisabetta Toreno
  • Book: Netherlandish and Italian Female Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century
  • Online publication: 24 November 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048544899.008
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  • Conclusions
  • Elisabetta Toreno
  • Book: Netherlandish and Italian Female Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century
  • Online publication: 24 November 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048544899.008
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Conclusions
  • Elisabetta Toreno
  • Book: Netherlandish and Italian Female Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century
  • Online publication: 24 November 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048544899.008
Available formats
×