Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2008

Publication Title

Eighteenth-Century Women

Volume

5

Abstract

“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Professor Henry Higgins’s androcentric lament from the musical My Fair Lady would have resounded with male biographers of the eighteenth century who wrote about the perplexing phenomenon of the woman artist. Since the Renaissance, writers of artistic biographical compendia had characterized the few female artists included in their volumes in distinctly different ways from their male counterparts, mainly due to lingering prejudices concerning the intellectual abilities and societal roles of women. Emulating Castiglione’s vision of the ideal Renaissance lady, biographers such as Giorgio Vasari, Carlo Ridolfi, and Carlo Cesare Malvasia emphasized the physical beauty and chaste virtue of the artist herself, rather than delineating the qualities of her creations. Although she might receive great praise for her housekeeping and musical skills, comments about her artistic talents were typically qualified as being “good for a woman.” Additionally, rather than delving into their training or development as was commonly done for male artists, women were superficially declared “miracles of nature,” and thereby placed outside of any genealogy of artistic tradition—even though many were the daughters of artists.

First Page

29

Last Page

51

ISSN

1529-5966

Comments

This work was originally published in Eighteenth-Century Women: Studies in their Lives, Work and Culture vol. 5 (2008).

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