'The Visual Arts and Music in Renaissance Europe c. 1400-1650' Student Conference

  • Laura Ventura Nieto (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Marvellous Oddities: Women Artists’ Self-Portraits as Musicians

Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century artists represented women making music in very different ways. Some of these depictions follow Baldessare Castiglione’s ideal donna di palazzo and, thus, the artist represents the sitter as a well-bred lady that is accomplished in music, literature and the arts, as shown by the attributes that accompany them. However, there is also found another type of female musician, namely the courtesan who, while playing her instrument, is also trying to lure the viewer or listener to her side. The great majority of these depictions of female musicians were made by male artists and consequently demonstrate the male gaze, implying a sexualisation of the object of the painting, that is, the female sitter.
My paper will focus on five images that are exceptions to the norm: self-portraits by Lavinia Fontana, Artemisia Gentileschi, Marietta Robusti and Sofonisba Anguissola, female artists who chose to represent themselves as musicians. These examples are interesting for several reasons: on the one hand, they show musical activity through female gaze, often as a respectable rather than a sexualised activity; on the other hand, they show music as a part of the representation of the self, that is, as a part of their professional identities.
Period18 Jan 2014
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map