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First Advisor

Quinlan-McGrath, Mary

Legacy Department

School of Art


In recent Art Historical writing, male and female Renaissance portraiture is frequently discussed as two separate categories, which assume different functions and purposes, based on the position of men and women within Renaissance society. This paper, in particular, analyzes the feminist theory of the function of female portraiture, which sees portraits of women as objects of the male gaze, created in a society in which women’s claims were more limited than they were for men, and women are seen as passive objects of an extreme patriarchy. Here, a closer look is taken at more recent research, which supports a view of a society in which men possessed a high degree of respect and appreciation for women and the roles they fulfilled in everyday life. By looking at portraiture pairs, depictions of husbands and wives, this paper suggests that female portraiture did not provide an object for the male gaze, but rather served the same function as male portraiture, a commemorative function, used to display lineage, wealth, honor, and status.


Includes bibliographical references.


31 pages




Northern Illinois University

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