Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference

  • Laura Ventura Nieto (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Anthropomorphism, Musical Instruments, and Depicted Female Musicians in Sixteenth-Century Italy

According to Michel Foucault, the construction of symbolic meaning during the early modern period was determined by the episteme of resemblance. Following this, in the late 1990s musicologists such as Gary Tomlinson adopted notions of resemblance to explain features of sixteenth-century music, such as text-setting. Moreover, the recent study The Anthropomorphic Lens outlines how the early modern chain of resemblances established an association between bodily attributes (both physical and emotional) and the body, leading to the notion of ‘anthropomorphism’. Anthropomorphism can be applied to the common symbolism of musical instruments: for example, the shape of woodwind instruments echoing the male phallus, the lute mirroring the curves of the female belly, and so on. Building on this, it can be argued that musical instruments are mediations between society’s construction of proper femininity, and the visual projection of a woman’s musical body.
This paper will offer an analysis of anthropomorphic interpretations of musical instruments in relation to early modern extant sources: for example, treatises (such us Pietro Cerone’s El melopeo y maestro), mythological stories, poems (such as Giulio Cesare Croce’s enigmas), surviving instruments, and iconography (which include Piazza da Lodi’s Concert, Bartolommeo Veneto’s Lute Player or Sofonisba Anguissola’s Self-Portrait at the Spinet amongst others). I will also consider an image where the anthropomorphic associations of instruments were neutralised by other symbolism such as that of the Muses.
Period5 Jul 2017
Event typeConference
LocationPrague, Czech RepublicShow on map