Female patronage and the rise of female spirituality in Italian art of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
This thesis deals with the two partially interlocking aspects of female patronage and female spirituality in Italian art during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. My aim has been to expand the knowledge of this subject not through a detailed examination of one female patron, her spirituality, and how it affected her commissions, but through a number of representative examples in order to show the breadth and diversity of women's influence over art, both active and passive. I have therefore surveyed previous assumptions on female patronage and the opportunities that existed for it, taking a number of smaller examples so as to lay a base for my later arguments. One of the main problems that emerged was a misunderstanding of the clothes depicted as being worn both by the subjects of the paintings and by the donors, and also the subjective use of clothes in order to put across a message. This aspect also bears on the variety of women's religious experience which underlies the whole of this investigation. It forms a base for my chapters on commissions by and for the Poor Clares and the female Vallombrosan order. Finally, I have looked at two examples of lay female patronage only one of which takes a woman as its subject, and examined the reasons for the choice of subject in relation to the spiritual influences of the commissioner and also the ways in which the direct influence of the patron can be assessed. My research has indicated that both lay women and nuns were not only capable of paying for ambitious projects but that they could also positively affect their iconography. Women's influence over art during this period, and the impact of their spirituality on it, both actively and passively, has only previously been investigated in a few instances. The aim of this thesis is to provide an overview of the female patronage and female spirituality in art and to show that women's influence over art was present in many spheres of society and was not an exception to the rule.