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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2022

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Summary

Abstract

With one hundred and thirty portraits, this book traces the aesthetic and conceptual conditions of fifteenth-century Netherlandish and Italian individual female portraiture on panels. Their unprecedented quantity and characteristics signal the genre's modernisation in European visual culture. Their provenance, both cultural and territorial, betrays relations with a new estate that was especially advanced in the urbanised regions of central-northern Italy and Flanders, and that rose to visibility from entrepreneurial capital. The androcentric organisation of powers, upon which societies operated across Europe, suited this new estate to an extent that deepened the gender dynamics of its patriarchal foundations. This book studies the relationship between life and imaging of women during this epochal moment in the European history. Its introductory chapter surveys the history of the genre until the fifteenth century and evaluates critically the studies on the subject. It explains the premise, method, and structure of the enquiry. It ends with technical clarifications.

Key words: Painting – Antiquity – Portraiture – Renaissance – Women

A late fifteenth century panel painting shows the half-bust silhouette of a young woman with greenish eyes, a distinctive nose and brown hair neatly arranged into headgear ending with a coazzone. She is wearing a brocaded gamurra with Sforza emblems. Above the ear, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds, and pearls are fitted in a pendant in the shape of a brush bordered by a banderole inscribed with a motto merito et tempore [Fig. I.1]. The design of this jewel was the impresa of Ludovico Sforza (1452–1508), known as the Moor.

The woman likely represents Ludovico's niece Bianca Maria, born on 5 April 1472, the daughter of the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444–1476). After her father's assassination on 26 December 1476, she and her brother, the new Duke Gian Galeazzo (1469–1494), fell under the wily tutelage of Ludovico, who de facto ruled as the Duchy's Regent. After Gian Galeazzo's mysterious death on 21 October 1494, Ludovico assumed formal control, which he lost in 1499, when the French invaded the principality. Meanwhile, Bianca Maria would come close three times to wearing the bridal dress. Then, shortly before she lost her brother, her uncle succeeded in sealing her union with none other than the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I (1459–1519), whom she married on 30 November 1493.

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Netherlandish and Italian Female Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century
Gender, Identity, and the Tradition of Power
, pp. 17 - 38
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Introduction
  • Elisabetta Toreno
  • Book: Netherlandish and Italian Female Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century
  • Online publication: 24 November 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048544899.001
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  • Introduction
  • Elisabetta Toreno
  • Book: Netherlandish and Italian Female Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century
  • Online publication: 24 November 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048544899.001
Available formats
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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.

  • Introduction
  • Elisabetta Toreno
  • Book: Netherlandish and Italian Female Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century
  • Online publication: 24 November 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048544899.001
Available formats
×