"Did Women Have a Renaissance?"
Did Women Have a Renaissance? Unfortunately, the absence of women's stories in many areas of Renaissance studies has led to little discussion of the social and political regulation that caused it, and of how transgressions of female boundaries might have been achieved. However, a growing number of feminist scholars have shown that women in the Renaissance did not merely internalize the roles urged on them, but rather constructed positions for themselves in everyday life, as well as in the more elite pursuits of literature, music, and art. Art in particular was a powerful method of controlling women, through a myriad of visual examples and social pressures, and it offers especially rich material for the study of Italian Renaissance female roles and women's transgressions of them.
One role that was rarely encouraged for women was that of the artist. The requirements of artistic training such as drawing nude studies and the social unacceptability of such a career, combined with the economic restrictions of guild membership, allowed little capacity for female artists to flourish.
The few documented female Renaissance artists were either daughters of artists who trained in their fathers' workshops or children of noblemen, who were expected to have fairly accomplished literary, musical, and artistic skills. Although records indicate that they were talented, these women frequently ended their artistic careers when they married, concentrating their work on subjects considered proper for women artists; portraits and pictures of family members in domestic settings.
For example, Caterina van Hemessen received her artistic training in her father's studio, and of ten surviving pictures, eight are portraits, most are of women shown at domestic pursuits, such as playing the spinet or chess. She married a musician and appears to have ended her career as an artist. Marietta Tintoretto studied in...