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6 - Fifteenth-Century Venice: Performing Imaging

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2022

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Summary

Abstract

The portraiture hitherto discussed is representative of the modernisation of the genre in fifteen-century Europe. As urban professionalism settled within the spheres of power, it stimulated cultural and material by-products that also constitute the visual signs of these portraits. A study of these signs should consider the extent to which mimetic expressions betrayed the practical and psychological concerns of shifting social orders. Regarding female portraiture, it should also consider the extent to which the economy of this urban professionalism had benefited from the patriarchal system. The Venetian culture of display suits an exploration of these questions. Therefore, it is the subject with which I shall conclude this book. This final chapter probes the effects of the laws on dowries and marriage on the Venetian patriciate. In treating this subject as a case study, I propose that portraiture as an object of display was complemented by symbolic actions in the public sphere, the theatre for self-imaging.

Key words: Dowry – Performance– Sumptuary Laws – Theatre – Venice

In fifteenth-century Europe, a strengthened urban professionalism produced new dynamics within the spheres of power, and the development of an awareness of agency and personhood in its players. The portraits discussed in this book illustrate the complexity of this emerging outlook. However, this takeaway suggests a definition of mimesis from the perspective of the everyday efforts to consolidate personal and, in turn, collective accomplishments. Attention must be paid also to the fact that the economic and political gamut of the entrepreneurial groups that fuelled this professionalism had been enhanced by the exploitation of the patriarchal system. This chapter argues that the social and legal anxieties of the patriarchal system can be traced in women's symbolic actions beyond the painted image in performative self-imaging. The Venetian culture of display suits this last task, and further, its portraiture shows a fruitful reinterpretation of the Netherlandish style. Therefore, it is the subject with which I shall conclude this book.

As explained, the number of surviving fifteenth-century male likenesses across Europe is conspicuously higher than that of women because it reflects men's multidimensional experiences as they aged in life: marriage, productive friendships, professional networking, and so on.

Type
Chapter
Information
Netherlandish and Italian Female Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century
Gender, Identity, and the Tradition of Power
, pp. 173 - 194
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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