Women in Italy, 1350-1650: Ideals and Realities: A Sourcebook

Women in Italy, 1350-1650: Ideals and Realities: A Sourcebook

by Mary Rogers, Paola Tinagli


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This Enlightening Book aims to fill the gap in the literature on women's lives from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-seventeenth century, a time in which Italian urban societies saw much debate on the nature of women and on their roles, education and behaviour. Indeed these were debates which would in subsequent years resonate throughout Europe as a whole.

Using a broad range of contemporary source material, most of which has never been translated before, this book illuminates the ideals and realities which informed the lives of women within the context of civic and courtly culture. The text is divided into three sections: contemporary views on the nature of women and ethical and aesthetic ideals seen as suitable to them; life cycles from birth to death, punctuated by the rites of passage of betrothal, marriage and widowhood; women's roles in the convent, the court, the workplace, and in cultural life.

Through their exploration of these themes, Rogers and Tinagli demonstrate that there was no single 'Renaissance woman'. The realities of women's experiences were rich and various, and their voices speak of diverse possibilities for emotionally rich and socially useful lives.

This is essential reading for students and teachers of society and culture during the Italian Renaissance, as well as gender historians working on early modern Europe.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780719072086
Publisher: Manchester University Press
Publication date: 01/14/2006
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.69(w) x 8.61(h) x 0.99(d)

About the Author

Mary Rogers has published widely on Italian visual representations of women in relation to the writing of the day

Paola Tinagli is author of Women in Italian Renaissance Art (MUP 1997) and lives and works in Italy

Table of Contents

List of platesviii
Frequently cited sourcesxi
Part IIdeals
1Woman's nature and characteristics12
The case against women12
Theological arguments16
Biological arguments18
Biology to social psychology: woman's temperament and characteristics21
From description to prescription: notions of womanly virtues25
2The discourse of beauty and love26
The nature and value of woman's beauty29
Beauty and classical echoes30
Beauty and vernacular poetry32
Questioning and reversing poetic ideals of beauty35
The diffusion of poetic ideals of beauty37
Ideal love38
3The Virgin Mary42
Women approaching Mary as woman and exemplar43
Public cults48
Private devotions52
4Female saints56
Cults, prayers, stories57
Female saints and female devotion62
Renaissance saints and holy women66
5Famous and exemplary women73
Old Testament heroines76
Famous women among the ancients79
Anti-heroines and their vices85
Famous women and Renaissance women87
Part IILife cycles
The birth of a daughter95
Appearance and dress100
Social behaviour and pastimes106
Poor girls109
7Betrothals and weddings115
Choosing a husband/Choosing a wife116
The betrothal121
Dowries, gifts and commemorative art127
The wedding and wedding festivities129
8Marriage and married life137
The justification for marriage137
Conduct and behaviour in marriage: the marriage treatise142
Conduct and behaviour in marriage: two churchmen's views144
Outward appearance145
Domestic spaces and furnishings150
Running a household152
The life of married women157
Preparing for death160
Unhappy marriages162
9Conception, childbirth and the upbringing of children167
Festivities after the birth of a child178
Death in childbirth178
Bringing up children183
Exemplary widows; widowhood in general187
Alternative widowhoods189
The aftermath of bereavement190
Coping alone: financial and practical matters194
Bringing up children197
Influential widows201
Widows dispose of their estates202
Piety and charitable activities205
Part IIIRoles
11Nuns and women in religion210
Entering a convent: procedures, motivations, personnel211
The monastic way of life: ideals and practices215
Problems and abuses220
The physical environment of nuns; their use of artefacts222
Nuns' social contacts and cultural roles227
The Third Orders and other non-enclosed religious groupings230
12The court lady234
The court lady as an ideal234
The court lady236
The donna di corte or lady-in-waiting239
The roles of a ruler's wife242
Luxury at court248
Relaxation and pastimes250
Mistresses and concubines256
13Women and work for gain258
Women in the marketplace258
Textile workers259
Servants and slaves264
Hospital staff270
14Prostitutes and courtesans273
Prostitutes in city spaces274
Different methods and behaviour277
The successful courtesan279
Courtesans speak286
Negative views of courtesans289
Attempts at reform292
15Writers, artists, musicians and performers296
Backgrounds, settings, training, mentors296
Positive critical reactions306
Negative reactions: issues of decorum312
Self-presentation and justification314
The plates319

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