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Aurora: The Journal of the History of Art




The writer discusses gender relations in life stories of Italian women artists between 1550 and 1800. In early modern life stories, a recurring emphasis on gender relations, typically deflecting or overshadowing discussion of artistic accomplishment, clearly marks the female artist as a breed apart from her male colleagues. In light of the fact that their biographers were frequently artists themselves, or at least were linked to artistic circles, the commonalities of these anecdotal narratives illuminate how these “miracles of nature” were viewed by the male artistic community, and, by association, the broader society of which they were a part. The novel presence of the female artist in the male art world was certainly regarded as a sexually charged and complicated situation for everyone concerned. Whether characterized visually or verbally, the woman artists could not be seen separately from her femininity, and was portrayed consistently as an object of desire that is acted upon by the male subject.

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This work was originally published in Aurora: The Journal of the History of Art vol. 6 (2005) and can be accessed from the publisher here:


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