Dr Laura Ventura Nieto

Supervised by

  • Stephen Rose First/primary/lead supervisor


Research interests

Controlling and Fashioning the Sounding Body. Italian Depictions of Women Making Music, c. 1520-1650

This project investigates how female musicians were imagined, constructed and represented between c. 1520 and c. 1650, focusing on depictions (e.g. paintings, drawings, woodcuts) produced in Italy as primary sources. It interprets these visual representations as multi-layered gender performances constituted by a multiplicity of gazes (for instance, those of the sitter, the painter or the commissioner), which are in turn re-enacted through time by the gaze of new onlookers. Such depictions thus are static and silent interpretations of the gender performances made by women as they fashioned their identities within the limits imposed by patriarchal society.

As a starting-point for the gender performances captured in visual artworks, this dissertation investigates the education of female musicians, through treatises (such as Castiglione's Il cortegiano or Bruto's La institutione) and biographical documents that discuss female musical education (such as Guasco's Ragionamento). Such sources show the ambivalent status of music during early modernity, and highlight how the education of women was framed by society's conventions and expectations. Further case studies show the role of musical instruments in gender performances: through a focus on anthropomorphism as a part of the early modern episteme of resemblance, this thesis investigates the gender connotations of percussion, blown, stringed and keyboard instruments. Moreover, visual representations of Saint Cecilia are also scrutinised as commentaries on contemporary physical religious experiences, as well ideals of femininity, social implications of female music-making and early modern musical theory and practice. Finally, musical portraits of figures such as Barbara Salutati (fl. 1520s), Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532-1625), Marietta Robusti (c. 1554-c. 1590), Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614) and Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) exemplify how early modern women played with blurred boundaries through the use of masks and sprezzatura in their performances with their sounding bodies, and how artists represented these musical gender performances with reference to the cultural conventions and social beliefs surrounding female musicianship.

Educational background

Royal Holloway, University of London - MPhil/PhD in Musicology, 2013-2017

Royal Holloway, University of London - MMus Musicology, 2012-2013; Dissertation: Painted Ladies. Representations of Women Making Music in Italy and the Low Countries, 1500-1700

Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya - BMus in Musicology, 2008-2012; Dissertation: Laudate eum in psalterio et cithara

Universidad de Barcelona - BA in Art History, 2005-2010


Crosslands Scholarship Maintananace and Fee Award

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


MU1115 Introduction to Historical Musicology (Teaching Assistant, 2014-2015)

MU3424 Music and Gender (Visiting Lecturer, 2014-2015)

MU1114 A Very Short History of Music (Teaching Assistant, 2015-2016)

MU1115 Introduction to Historical Musicology (Teaching Assistant, 2015-2016)

MU3424 Music and Gender (Visiting Lecturer, 2015-2016)

MU2002 Studies in Music History (Teaching Assistant, 2016-2017)

MU3424 Music and Gender (Visiting Lecturer, 2016-2017)

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