RMA Research Students’ Conference

  • Laura Ventura Nieto (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


“My Virgin Cheeks Puffed Up”: Classical Mythology, Women and Wind Instruments in the Early Modern Period

Wind instruments were frowned upon by early-modern conduct-book writers such as Baldassare Castiglione ‘because the boisterousness of them doth cover and take away that sweet mildness which setteth so forth evrie deede that a woman doeth.’ Moreover, their distortion of their player’s face during the performance and their phallic shape turned them into unbecoming choices for proper ladies of the court, whose main concern was to look chaste and beautiful to make a profitable marriage. Hence few female musicians devoted themselves to play these instruments, and there are even fewer painted representations of aristocratic ladies playing wind instruments. Such unsuitability was not a new way of thinking that appeared during this period: classical mythology and philosophy include many passages discussing the negative connotations of wind instruments, when played both by men and women. This paper will discuss how these mythological stories and classical philosophical thinking helped shape early modern ideas of female music-making, specifically the unsuitability of wind instruments for the proper lady of the court. Also, it will analyse a group of four woodcuts by the Swiss draughtsman Tobias Stimmer that represent four high-class women playing four wind instruments (clarino, traverse flute, bass shawm and cornetto). These images, never analysed by musicologists from this point of view before, will be used as an example of music’s mixed connotations during the early modern period and to show how iconography can be used as another source to study female music making.
Period10 Jan 2015
Event typeConference
LocationBristol, United KingdomShow on map