Caterina Sforza and the Art of Appearances: Gender, Art and Culture in Early Modern Italy, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Caterina Sforza and the Art of Appearances

Gender, Art and Culture in Early Modern Italy, 1st Edition

By Joyce de Vries


322 pages

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In the first major book in four decades on Caterina Sforza (1463-1509), Joyce de Vries investigates the famous noblewoman's cultural endeavors, and explores the ways in which gender, culture, and consumption practices were central to the invention of the self in early modern Italy. Sforza commissioned elaborate artistic and architectural works, participated in splendid civic and religious rituals, and collected a dazzling array of clothing, jewelry, and household goods. By engaging in these realms of cultural production, de Vries suggests, Sforza manipulated masculine and feminine norms of behavior and effectively promoted her social and political agendas. Drawing on visual evidence, inventories, letters, and contemporary texts, de Vries offers a penetrating new interpretation of women's contributions to early modern culture. She explains the correlations between prescriptive literature and women's actions and reveals the mutability of gender roles in the princely courts. De Vries's analysis of Sforza's posthumous legend suggests that what we see as "the Renaissance" was as much a historical invention as a coherent moment in historical time.


Winner, CAA Millard Meiss Publication Fund Grant

'Caterina Sforza remains a little understood character. This book provides a very rounded account of her life, dispelling or unravelling the many myths that have grown up around her without removing the fascination of her life. De Vries’s book allows us to see Caterina in multiple contexts, analysing architecture, material culture as well as her spiritual and humanist patronage. This is a detailed, evocative study that is also a pleasure to read.' Evelyn Welch, Queen Mary University of London, UK

'… this book is a well-written and useful contribution to the field of Renaissance studies, not only because it makes available an up-to-date account of Caterina Sforza for the English-speaking world, but also because it sheds much light on Renaissance production and consumption of serially manufactured goods, and therewith on the kind of material culture that, in the end, was much more widespread than the few paintings by famous artists that art history has focused on for such a long time.' Sehepunkte

'This is an interesting and persuasive book that throws light on the central importance of luxury goods in the construction of nobility and the pursuit of status in early modern Europe. De Vries’s very welcome analysis of Caterina Sforza’s cultural self-fashioning whets our appetite for a new assessment of her unusually autonomous political role in a very troubled period of Italian history.' Parergon

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Creating a spectacle; Building magnificence; Splendor in the princely court; The cultivation of mind and spirit; The political afterlife of Caterina Sforza; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Joyce de Vries is an Associate Professor of Art History at Auburn University, USA

About the Series

Women and Gender in the Early Modern World

Women and Gender in the Early Modern World
The study of women and gender offers some of the most vital and innovative challenges to current scholarship on the early modern period. For more than a decade now, Women and Gender in the Early Modern World has served as a forum for presenting fresh ideas and original approaches to the field. Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary in scope, this Routledge series strives to reach beyond geographical limitations to explore the experiences of early modern women and the nature of gender in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. We welcome proposals for both single-author volumes and edited collections which expand and develop this continually evolving field of study.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / General