Beyond Isabella: Secular Women Patrons of Art in Renaissance Italy

Sheryl E. Reiss & David G. Wilkins, eds.


This volume brings together fourteen essays which examine the important and often unrecognized roles aristocratic and bourgeois women played in the patronage of visual culture during the Italian Renaissance. (SCE&S 54)

Weight N/A
Dimensions N/A


ISBN: N/A Category: Tags: , , , ,

Look Inside


Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, Vol. 54

Who were the secular female patrons of art and architecture in Renaissance Italy beyond Isabella d’Este? This volume brings together fourteen essays which examine the important and often unrecognized roles aristocratic and bourgeois women played in the patronage of visual culture during the Italian Renaissance. Themes include the significance of role models for female patrons, the dynamics of conjugal patronage, and the widespread patronage activities of widows.
Collectively, the essays demonstrate how resourceful women expressed themselves through patronage despite the limitations of a highly structured patriarchal society. Thus, Isabella d’Este was by no means unique as a secular female patron, and the studies offered here should encourage scholars to move further “beyond Isabella” in their assessment of women’s patronage of art and architecture in Renaissance Italy.


Introduction: Recognizing New Patrons, Posing New Questions.....David G. Wilkins
Fina da Carrara, née Buzzacarini: Consort, Mother, and Patron of Art in Trecento Padua....Benjamin G. Kohl
Controlling Women or Women Controlled? Suggestions for Gender Roles and Visual Culture in the Italian Renaissance Palace.....Roger J. Crum
The Women Patrons of Neri di Bicci.....Rosi Prieto Gilday
Caterina Piccolomini and the Palazzo delle Papesse in Siena.....A. Lawrence Jenkens
Renaissance Husbands and Wives as Patrons of Art: The Camerini of Isabella d’Este and Francesco II Gonzaga.....Molly Bourne
Widow, Mother, Patron of Art: Alfonsina Orsini de’ Medici.....Sheryl E. Reiss
Two Emilian Noblewomen and Patronage Networks in the Cinquecento.....Katherine A. McIver
Dutiful Widows: Female Patronage and Two Marian Altarpieces by Parmigianino.....Mary Vaccaro
Vittoria Colonna and the Commission for a Mary Magdalen by Titian.....Marjorie Och
Bronzino in the Service of Eleonora di Toledo and Cosimo I de’ Medici: Conjugal Patronage and the Painter-Courtier.....Bruce L. Edelstein
A Medici Miniature: Juno and a Woman with “Eyes in Her Head Like Two Stars in Their Beauty”......Gabrielle Langdon
A Widow’s Choice: Alessandro Allori’s Christ and the Adulteress in the Church of Santo Spirito at Florence.....Elizabeth Pilliod
Matrons and Motives: Why Women Built in Early Modern Rome.....Carolyn Valone


Sheryl E. Reiss, Senior Research Associate in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Cornell University, received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1992. Her doctoral dissertation examined the art patronage of the early sixteenth century, particularly that of the Medici family in Florence and Rome. She has published articles in the Zeitschrift für Kunstegeschichte, the Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Burlington Magazine. Dr. Reiss, who has taught at Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Cornell University, is the College Art Association Reviews Associate Editor for Early Modern Southern Europe and has received awards from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Renaissance Society of America. She is currently preparing a book entitled The Making of a Medici Maecenas: Giulio de' Medici (Poe Clement VII) as Patron of Art and is co-editing a collection of essays entitled The Pontificate of Clement VII: History, Politics, Culture.

David Wilkins, Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, was educated at Oberlin College and the University of Michigan. He is the author of Maso di Banco: A Florentine Artist of the Early Trecento; Paintings and Sculpture of the Duquesne Club; and many articles. He has coauthored Donatello; The History of the Duquesne Club; The Illustrated Bartsch, Vol. 53; and Art Past/Art Present (4th edition, 2001). He co-edited with Rebecca L. Wilkins The Search for a Patron in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and is now working on the fifth edition of Frederick Hartt's History of Italian Renaissance Art.


In fourteen substantial essays Reiss, Wilkins, and their collaborators offer rich new evidence for the activity of secular women in the production and reception of Italian Renaissance art, calling into serious question traditional stereotypes of female patronage and reconceptualizing art patronage itself.

Renaissance Quarterly

The literature assessing the importance of women in visual culture has tended to find the quintessential woman patron in Isabella d’Este. This stimulating and informative collection of essays, each a detailed case study, opens up the subject with a broad chronological and geographical span. Intriguing and relatively unknown women patrons are introduced into the literature.... Well-known women patrons are treated from new points of view, and even Isabella herself gets a new slant, seen here as fueled in her artistic enterprises by rivalry with her husband.... An important contribution to the literature, certain to have heavy use in the classroom.


You may also like…