Wives, Widows, Mistresses, and Nuns in Early Modern Italy: Making the Invisible Visible through Art and Patronage (Women and Gender in the Early Modern World)

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Through a visually oriented investigation of historical (in)visibility in early modern Italy, the essays in this volume recover those women - wives, widows, mistresses, the illegitimate - who have been erased from history in modern literature, rendered invisible or obscured by history or scholarship, as well as those who were overshadowed by male relatives, political accident, or spatial location. A multi-faceted invisibility of the individual and of the object is the thread that unites the chapters in this volume. Though some women chose to be invisible, for example the cloistered nun, these essays show that in fact, their voices are heard or seen through their commissions and their patronage of the arts, which afforded them some visibility. Invisibility is also examined in terms of commissions which are no longer extant or are inaccessible. What is revealed throughout the essays is a new way of looking at works of art, a new way to visualize the past by addressing representational invisibility, the marginalized or absent subject or object and historical (in)visibility to discover who does the 'looking,' and how this shapes how something or someone is visible or invisible. The result is a more nuanced understanding of the place of women and gender in early modern Italy.

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About the Author:

Katherine A. McIver is Professor of Art History at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA.

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'Wives, Widows, Mistresses, and Nuns in Early Modern Italy is a strong collection of essays that will illuminate early modern women in a thoughtful and provocative manner.' Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, Wellesley College, USA and author of Art, Marriage, and Family in the Florentine Renaissance Palace 'The volume is beautifully presented, with fifty-seven black and white illustrations, and a substantial bibliography that provides a good overview of the field... McIver's volume contributes to the recent scholarly shift of attention away from traditional patronage systems more commonly associated with male elites... This collection of essays is an important addition to these studies [...] and augments Ashgate's excellent series on Women and Gender in the Early Modern World.' Renaissance Quarterly 'McIver and her authors seek to understand the various mechanisms that could render women visible or invisible, and by doing so, provide a more balanced understanding of the historical record. While some women, like nuns, chose (or were coerced) to be invisible, others might be overshadowed by powerful husbands, obscured by historical accident, or marginalized by remote locations. Regardless of the cause, McIver's volume successfully demonstrates that patronage, broadly defined, could provide these women with some degree of visibility.' European History Quarterly

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