• Artistic Achievements of Convent Women in Renaissance Italy: with case studies in Venice and Prato

      Cooper, Tracy Elizabeth; West, Ashley D.; West, Ashley D. (Temple University. Libraries, 2015)
      This thesis evaluates the artistic contributions of convent women in Renaissance Italy during the period c. 1450-1550 with individual case studies in Venice and Prato. As the cost of the traditional marriage dowry inflated markedly over the course of the fifteenth century, an increasing number of girls from affluent family backgrounds were sent to the convent in an effort to spare their families the financial burden of marrying them off. Convent vocations were not only financially convenient for families with daughters but offered a socially respectable alternative to marriage that many came to rely upon over the course of the latter fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The heightened presence of highborn girls in Italian convents seems to correspond with a concurrent development in female monastic artistic production. This point will be demonstrated in my study through analysis of two objects: the illustrated convent chronicle of Santa Maria delle Vergini (c. 1523), now in the Museo Correr in Venice and the illustrated frontispiece of Beatrice del Sera's convent play Amor di virtù (1555), preserved in the Biblioteca Riccardiana in Florence. Both of the considered works complement a text also written by convent women during the same period that demonstrate their knowledge of historic and current events, in addition to contemporaneous developments in the visual arts. The corresponding texts will be examined in a supporting manner to aid in interpreting the subject matter of the illustrations. Subsequent to identifying the pictorial content of these illustrations, I will elucidate how the convent artists successfully assert a female identity through their respective visual representations, and determine what specific type of identity they were motivated to promote.