Perception And Presentation: Mythological Imagery And The Female Gaze In Italian Renaissance Art
Ostensibly, it would seem that during the Renaissance, subjects of mythological origin in the visual arts were almost exclusively created with the male patron in mind. While this is a highly visible trend, it is important to remember that women, too, were spectators of art steeped in mythological imagery. Cassoni and spalliere were marriage chests and wall panels customarily commissioned for wedding rituals of the era and were often painted with such stories. To determine how the female gaze differed from its male counterpart in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, paintings meant for the eyes of a specific couple are illuminating. An examination of frequently depicted mythological subjects and how they were presented compositionally will allow for some insight into how the primary viewers of these objects perceived the imagery, and whether this supports the notion of a female gaze as separate and different from that of the default male gaze. Conjectures regarding whether it is possible to theorize a gendered way of looking can then be made, and if this is the case, how gender expectations and roles within marriage changed or conditioned the context of the subject that was being viewed. Contemporary texts, treatises, and pamphlets which broach the issue of proper female decorum are used in conjunction with an analysis of the objects and images themselves. This will allow for a discerning look into the politics of marriage, providing a more thorough understanding of how women were expected to conduct themselves, and based on this idealistic view, how mythological paintings found on marriage chests and wall panels would or should have been perceived.