Starting from an inventory and other documents, Ann Roberts has identified some 30 works of art that originated from the convent of San Domenico of Pisa. She here examines those objects commissioned for and made by the nuns during the fifteenth century; some of the objects included have never before been published. One of her goals in this study is to bring into the discussion of Renaissance art a body of images that have been previously overlooked, because they come from a non-Florentine context and because they do not fit modern notions of the "development" of Renaissance style. She also analyzes the function of the images - social as well as religious - within the context of a female Dominican convent. Finally, she offers descriptions of and documentation for the process of patronage as it was practiced by cloistered women, and the making of art in such enclosures. The author presents a catalogue of works, which gives basic data and bibliography for the objects described in the text. Roberts offers other valuable resources in the appendices, including unpublished C19th inventories of the objects in the convent at various moments, documents regarding the commission of works of art for the convent, letters written by the nuns, a list of the Prioresses of San Domenico, lists of nuns at different points in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century, and a list of the relics owned by the convent in the sixteenth century. Roberts firmly grounds her interpretation in the values of the Order to which the nuns belonged, and in the political and social concerns of their city.
'While adopting many of the strategies of traditional art history investigating issues of style, taste, iconography, and sources, Roberts employs these not as ends in themselves but to answer questions about patronage, audience, and meaning, providing new insights into how nuns related to art and how they shaped the artistic program of their convent. Especially noteworthy in this study is the extent to which the author has been able to identify works from the internal spaces of the convent and to reconstruct decorative programs based on inventories and archival documents.' Marilyn Dunn, Loyola University Chicago, USA
’… impressive monographic study… Comprehensive monographic investigations of lesser-known objects or even complexes such as this convent become increasingly rare, in part because […] scholars quite understandably shy away from the painstaking work they often require. Roberts' study, however, demonstrates that these efforts can be extremely rewarding.’ Journal fur Kunstgeschichte
’… [Ann Roberts's] book offers much more to the reader than the average specialized study. In many ways Dominican Women is a model of microhistorical analysis. Roberts has meticulously researched her topic in both archival and secondary sources… Roberts's microhistorical approach provides a depth of understanding that broader studies might lack… In these days of publishers' reluctance to issue art history books that do not sit comfortably on coffee tables, Ashgate is to be commended for supporting Roberts's investigation. The book is not big and glossy, its illustrations are all black and white, but its text offers great richness of information and ideas for serious scholars of Renaissance art, history, religion, and women.’ Sixteenth Century Journal
Contents: Introduction; Chiara Gambacorta and the history of San Domenico of Pisa; The setting: the buildings of San Domenico; The impact of the foundress; The convent audience; An observant identity; Nuns and the world; Patrons and painters; Catalogue of paintings from San Domenico; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.