As one of the first books to treat portraits of early modern women as a discrete subject, this volume considers the possibilities and limits of agency and identity for women in history and, with particular attention to gender, as categories of analysis for women's images. Its nine original essays on Italy, the Low Countries, Germany, France, and England deepen the usefulness of these analytical tools for portraiture. Among the book's broad contributions: it dispels false assumptions about agency's possibilities and limits, showing how agency can be located outside of conventional understanding, and, conversely, how it can be stretched too far. It demonstrates that agency is compatible with relational gender analysis, especially when alternative agencies such as spectatorship are taken into account. It also makes evident the importance of aesthetics for the study of identity and agency. The individual essays reveal, among other things, how portraits broadened the traditional parameters of portraiture, explored transvestism and same-sex eroticism, appropriated aspects of male portraiture to claim those values for their sitters, and, as sites for gender negotiation, resistance, and debate, invoked considerable relational anxiety. Richly layered in method, the book offers an array of provocative insights into its subject.
'Making a significant contribution to the field of early modern European visual culture, this volume focusing on portraits of women asks - and, in some cases, even answers - how image-making functioned as an act of agency in Renaissance and Baroque Europe.' Julia Marciari Alexander, Yale Center for British Art, Yale University
'All in all, this an excellent collection of studies, which makes a major contribution to the subject of female portraiture in early modern Europe as well as raising questions that will hopefully lead to further fruitful research.’ Parergon
Contents: Introduction: portraiture's selves, Andrea Pearson; Gender and the configuration of early Netherlandish devotional skill, Bret Rothstein; Productions of meaning in portraits of Margaret of York, Andrea Pearson; The posthumous image of Mary of Burgundy, Ann M. Roberts; Effaced: falling widows, Allison Levy; Daddy's little girl: patrilineal anxiety in 2 portraits of a Renaissance daughter, Katherine A. McIver; Engaging negation in Hans Holbein the Younger's portrait of Christina of Denmark Duchess of Milan, Christiane Hertel; All the queen's women: female double portraits at the Caroline court, Jennifer L. Hallam; Troubling identities and the agreeable game of art: from Madame de Pompadour's theatrical 'breeches' of decorum to Drouais' portrait of Madame Du Barry en homme, Melissa Lee Hyde; Sculpting her image: Sarah Siddons and the art of self-fashioning, Heather McPherson; Bibliography; Index.