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The City of the Ladies: How Women of the Renaisaance Influenced Women of the Baroque

Updated on August 6, 2017
Sarah Schwartz profile image

Sarah has been writing historical stories since the ripe age of nine. Now, with a Bachelor's in History, she dreams to be a famous author.

Asleep With Wolves: Poems and Essays
Asleep With Wolves: Poems and Essays

A collection of poetry by author Sarah Schwartz with selected essays.


The City of Ladies

Women of the Renaissance helped to refine the soul of the Baroque period by adding sensitivity, empathy and passion to the world of arts and letters through their highly detailed contributions during the Renaissance within the realm of educational reform, the establishment of feminism, changes in Fashion & Design as well as the creation of the Anglican church and by evolving the image of women within the imagination.

In order to understand the ladies of the Renaissance, we must first discover the depths of uncertainty that their families came out of which worked as a spark to motivate them into seeking better opportunities for themselves. Prior to the great European Renaissance was a “dark” and depressing period, from the 5th century to the 14th century (Years 400-1300 C.E.), known as the Middle Ages which had few “high points” for civilization. There were many occurrences of “bad luck” that could have possibly helped make the bad situation, of these times, worse. Agriculture was often lacking; the food output from farming was often subpar when it came time to harvest as droughts and bad soil played a key role in dampening agricultural resources for much of Europe. Secondly, disease was rampant across Europe; many people were considered lucky to make it past their infancy during this time but, more astonishingly, living into an “old age” consisted of reaching the ripe age of thirty-five years old. Finally, wide spread warfare, looting, and pillaging seemed to be one of the only ways in which “good people” could do something to lift their own families out of the oppression of the Middle Ages.

It was because of these practices of warfare, disease, and poor food production that people began to seek their resources elsewhere and, thus, trade slowly began to occur throughout much of Europe; making the families involved in this business wealthy at a fairly rapid pace. This, in turn, led to a need for people to be well-rounded when it came to linguistics and education. As a result of the “supply and demand” that was occurring within the mercantile business, business began to quickly expand to further areas of the world. People, then, began to seek some basic education in order to better their careers as worldly merchants and expand their horizons as individuals as well as built strong relationships with their business partners in foreign reaches of the world. Resultantly, Europe discovered themselves on the brink of a “New Dawn” that we now know as The European Renaissance!

The Renaissance was a period in our world history that was filled with immense rebirth, growth and change but it was also a period that was filled with a constant struggle, both socially and economically, that encompassed much of modern Europe much in the same way in which the Middle Ages affected the region. The Renaissance was an expansive period in our history that lasted from the 14th century to the early 17th century (Years 1300-1600 C.E.). During this period, the world culture grew on an almost-alarming scale. Where it was previously common for individuals to be uneducated, people were becoming educated, at least, on some basic level so that they could better interact with the world around them. However, most commonly, people sought to be educated on advanced levels where their education included not only basic reading, writing and athematic but also arts, sciences, linguistics and advanced mathematics as well as the practice of medicine. Now, this advanced form of education was only commonly allocated towards the wealthy white male citizen towards the beginning of the Renaissance Period in Europe. However, we quickly find an evolution within the ranks of education by the practice of the also rapidly spreading philosophical process known as Humanism.

Humanism was a popular cultural movement during the Renaissance that “turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought”. It was because of this movement that many people of today’s society can directly attribute their educational pursuits towards the seeds that were planted during these times in our history. Humanism was unique in that it “attached prime importance to humans rather than the divine or supernatural. Humanist practices stressed the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasized common human needs, and sought solely rational ways of solving human problems.” This meant, in some circles, that more importance was placed on human beings as they were a creation of God which included women and people who were not of the race of majority populations. As a consequence of Humanism, more young girls and women were able to be educated than ever before. This, in part, was due to men realizing that they could, indeed, have an intelligent conversation with a lady; given that the lady had the “right tools” to prepare herself for conversational engagement.

Unfortunately, the education of women during the Renaissance was seen more as a way to provide an “enriched” wife to a prospective suitor instead of seeing the female for herself; a human being with a free will of her own. Alas, even with the influence of Humanism, women were still meant to be bred as wives and mothers instead of an individuals. At that point, they were meant to be used as a form of “entertainment” using their reading, writing, singing and other artistic abilities obtained through a well-rounded Renaissance related, Humanistic oriented education on top of their expectations as a wife, mother and home-maker. To the male centered society of the Renaissance, educating a woman was seen simply as an “extra bonus” added toward the companionship provided by her as a wife and mother. Largely, an educated woman during this period was not seen as a threat but more of as possessing an endearing quality; much like a child would like their favorite toy.

Although the perspective of men was oriented more toward educating a woman for their own enlightenment and entertainment, many women took the chance to prove themselves as close to an equal of a male as they could muster. The Renaissance was essentially a stepping stone towards the rights of women without males really gathering what was occurring in the process.

Due to the ever growing popularity of educating women during the Renaissance, women were able to help refine the “soul” of the Baroque period by adding their own sensitivity, empathy, passion and creativity to a male-centered environment. Educated women of the Renaissance were high detailed in their contributions within the genres of arts and letters and, therefore, were able to provide a female perspective on the world as it had never been seen before.

Women of the Renaissance such as Isabella d’Este and Lucrezia Borgia helped to advance educational reform due to the lasting “intellectual foot prints” that they left behind8. Within history, we can see the education of women between the 1300s-1600s really start to be propelled away from educating a wife and mother toward educating future female scholars for the further advancement of society.

Further more, the unique ideology of Feminism - that is, the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men - was started during the Renaissance due, largely in part, because of the contributions of Christine de Pisan and her active participation amongst the leading males within her own scholarly community. The prophet and soldier, Joan D’Arc, also respectively helped propel the rights of women by indirectly using the ideology of feminism to show that even a girl could serve her God and Country during wartime (and even be good at it).

In England, things on the “religious front” were vastly shaken by the contributions directly attributed to Anne Boleyn and her influence on King Henry Tudor the VIII. By associating with the King, Anne Boleyn encouraged the King to seek a divorce from his first wife via the Pope of the Holy Roman Empire. When that didn’t work, both Henry and Anne found a loop hole around the Catholic church by breaking from Catholicism and creating the Anglican church; thereby which indirectly created Protestantism in Europe and began a new wave of Christian centered religious beliefs that still exist to this day. As a result of the contributions (even if it was not directly intended) of Anne Boleyn, people were able to practice more religious freedom in a world that was previously controlled by Catholicism and the Pope. Henry Tudor and Anne Boleyn also made the practice of martial separation and divorce less taboo by their insubordination towards the Church.

Oddly enough, the daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor - Queen Elizabeth I of England, helped changed the fashion and design of Renaissance England by establishing a set of Sumptuary Laws that were strictly enforced. Where people were becoming bankrupt and, thus, affecting the economy of their societies; Elizabeth established laws that essentially outlawed certain types of excessiveness in fashion. During this period, a person’s social status depended greatly on the amount of lavishness that they expressed within their daily lives. The size of your home, the size of your family, the extravagance of your outfits, hats, shoes and purses and even the size of your belly dictated how positively or negatively people perceived your wealth. If you did not present yourself to society in the appropriate lavish fashion, you were mostly likely considered a commoner because there was nothing that separated you from being poor and common versus wealthy and affluent. As a result, before the sumptuary laws were established by Queen Elizabeth Tudor, people would routinely “break the bank” in order to attempt to “stay in fashion” or to even “stay in favor with society”. In short, when just about everyone was doing this, a nation quickly found themselves in debt and needing to find a way to quickly regain itself before chaos ensued.

The mental perception of women also changed within the Renaissance due to the exaggerated nature of female characters within art, music and literature. Where women were once thought of as inferior, deceitful, evil and sexuality veracious; the perspective slowly changed throughout the 1300s through the 1600s into women being seen as sensitive, fragile, innocent and mysterious creatures. The male dominated society that centered around the religious practice of Catholicism helped to shape the female image into something unappealing at the turn of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance period but as more women began to become involved in the every day fundamentals of education, arts and science; they were able to insert their opinions of their own sex into the creation of a new social norm.

It is with the paintings of Leonardo Di Vinci that we begin to see females perceived as alluring and mysterious creatures such as that of the Mona Lisa. Or within the statues of Michelangelo that we begin to see the fragile yet strong lines of a woman’s anatomical figure which began to captivate many cultures. We see from Michelangelo, also, a certain empathy and sensitivity given to the facial expressions of his female statues instead of the menacing sneer many females possessed in early Church paintings. For example, The Pietà housed within St. Peter's Basilica, in Vatican City is an excellent example of the rare empathy and sensitivity towards females that only began to be captured during the Renaissance. It is because of these intense yet relatable emotions on a woman’s face that these works of art have become as popular as they are today.

As early as the later years of the thirteenth century, in several places, a more accurate understanding of the ancient writers becomes evident. The bearers of this understanding were often lawyers, whose study of the Roman civil law provided them with access to the spirit and institutions of Rome, and led them to the study of Roman history and literature. The city of Padua was one of the important early centers of humanistic study.

The great figure who did most to give the decisive impulse to these developing tendencies was Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch (1304-74), who has been called the "father of humanism." Other individuals such as Giovanni Boccaccio and Coluccio Salutati were also influential Humanists during the Renaissance period.

Humanist sought to create a society that was able to speak and write with an eloquence and clarity that the ancient Greeks and Romans possessed in the “days of old”. Thus society would be capable of engaging in civic life outside of their own society and communities as well as be competent at persuading others to be live virtuous and prudent lives.

Without this new worldly outlook, educational reform revolving around females would not have been possible and, in the spirit of Humanism, fathers permitted their daughters to be enlightened by a first class education in all subjects that would go to benefit them in their later life; education that revolved around Humanistic thought processes: oratory, history, poetry, and moral philosophy.

Due to Humanism, daughters of affluent families were expected to be educated in order to provide companionship to their perspective spouses instead of simply being an “empty vessel” of a wife and mother. A woman who could carry on an intelligent conversation with an educated man was preferred over a simple girl with little education. However, the education of women and girls was only something that was practiced within the wealthy classes of Renaissance Europe. Women and girls of poorer families may have rarely received an education but their instruction was very basic compared to the education of a girl who came from a wealthy family.

Two females of the Renaissance that are exclusively known for their advanced level of knowledge, for the time, were Isabelle D’este and Lucrezia Borgia. Because of their advanced education and lineage from affluent families, these two women were quintessential assets to furthering the education of girls and women who came after them such as that of [would be] famous women of the Baroque period - Artemisia Gentileschi and Elisabetta Sirani.

Lucrezia Borgia was merely an educated pawn in a game played by the men that revolved around her lifestyle. Lucretia was unique in the aspect that she was married multiple times within a Catholic society where divorce was very frowned upon and almost met the eventual downfall of the woman of the divorce. However, a daughter's value in such a time was primarily to cement political relationships, and to add to the family's power.

Lucrezia was the illegitimate daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, also known as Pope Alexander VI17 so she was “in God’s favor” because of who her father was. Lucretia eventually became the sister-in-law to Isabella D’este after her other marriages were annulled, when she married Isabella’s brother, Alfonso of Ferrera.

It was not until she was married to her third husband that she became seriously interested in intellectual pursuits. Lucrezia associated with artists and writers, including the poets Ariosto and Pietro Bembo, and helped bring many to the court, distant as it was from the Vatican, where she would patronize their endevors. Recent studies have shown that during her years in Ferrara, Lucrezia was a shrewd businesswoman, building up her own fortune quite successfully. She used some of her wealth to build hospitals and convents, winning the respect of her subjects.

Adverse to Lucrezia, Isabella and her sister Beatrice both studied Latin and Greek, Roman history, singing, playing instruments (especially the lute), astrology, and dancing. Her father provided some of the leading teachers of the day and educated their daughters and sons equally. Isabella was accomplished enough in understanding politics to debate with ambassadors when she was sixteen.

Isabella was an extremely popular female for her time and enjoyed the company of many highly educated and prominent members of her society. She supported many of the Renaissance's painters, writers, poets, and musicians. Artists with whom Isabella d'Este is associated include Perugino, Battista Spagnoli, Raphael, Andrea Mantegna, Castiglione and Bandello. Also part of the court circle were writers including Ariosto and Baldassare Castiglione, architect Giulio Romano, and musicians Bartolomeo Tromboncino and Marchetto Cara. Isabella was also described as a beauty, with dark eyes and golden hair. She was famous for her fashion sense -- her style was copied by noble women throughout Europe.

Isabella was a highly educated, prominent, affluential and beautiful woman of the Italian Renaissance and gained those traits in her own right27 which was an extremely rare occurrence for a female during her particular time period in history. Unlike Isabella, Lucrezia was educated merely to make her family alliances stronger. However, due to the influence these two women had during the Renaissance, many artists, poets, writers and scientists were able to rise to notable fame as a direct result of these intellectual ladies patronizing their work. Isabella and Lucrezia, however they were represented, helped to move the education of women and girls into more of an “essential to individualism” mainstream opinion that would go onto encourage fathers to educate their daughters in more specific subjects such as math, sciences, linguistics and trade/ business during the Baroque Period.

Since females of this period were able to receive an education identical, if not similar, to that of males we are also subjected to the earliest phases of feminist ideology. The ideology of feminism first began during the earliest years of the Renaissance because of the contribution of the author, Christine de Pisan. Pisan was a very significant figure in the Renaissance because, among many things, she was the first female author to be paid for her writing as well as directly but, perhaps, inadvertently establishing the practice of feminist thought or “Feminism”.

Feminism was a progressive thought process during the 1300s-1700s that believed the women were strong and smart in their own right. Feminism believed many things such as that women could be skilled, women could “keep up” with men, women were also created in the image of God and that women were worthy of merit in the same aspect of a man.

What sparked Christine de Pisan to begin writing with feminism laced throughout her works? Pisan did not set out to establish a feminist thought process but rather, simply responded to the criticism of the female sex by writing a passionate retort to a popular poem, titled The Book of the City of Ladies, during her time; The Romance of the Rose or Roman de la Rose. This work was very popular in France and, would today, be termed a “Best Seller”; was read for almost three centuries. The first 4058 lines, written by Guillaume de Lorris around1230, describe the attempts of a courtier to woo his beloved. This part of the story is set in a walled garden or locus amoenus (Garden of Love), one of the traditional settings within chivalric literature. Then round 1275, Jean de Meun composed an additional 17,724 lines.

Although popular, Roman de la Rose was also very controversial because of its emphasis on sensual language and imagery which, in turn, provoked attacks by Jean Gerson and many other writers and moralists of the 14th and 15th centuries including our mentioned Christine de Pisan. To understand the context of Romance of the Rose, we must also be aware of the culture of the Renaissance where women were commonly portrayed as “being inferior to man”, “deceitful” to the point of also being labeled “evil” and sexually veracious.

Within the words of Roman de la Rose, the female characters are seen solely as objects of a man’s sexual desire and pervasiveness33. The poem is an allegorical dream vision about sex, in which a young man seeks to possess the rosebud with which he has become enthralled. Unfortunately, the rosebud is sealed away within a castle of chastity, guarded day and night by various allegorical figures such as Danger, Jealousy, and so on. The Lover, our young hero, must find a way to bypass the guardians so that he may possess the rosebud. Various allegorical figures such as Reason, Fair Seeming, and others offer him advice (often contradictory) concerning the best way to win his rosebud.

“It is the thirst that is always drunk, 
Drunkenness who thirst gets drunk, gay Sadness, bitter happiness.
Love is jubilant fury,
Sweet wrong, mischievous sweetness, 
Sweet badly savory flavor, a sweet and holy sin.”

In short, Romance of the Rose could be compared to modern “smut material” in the aspect that it contains lewd imagery of sexuality and a man’s sexual fixation/desire which drags a woman and her felinity through “the muck” and indecency of a mans sexual needs, selfishness and dishonesty.

The method in which Christine de Pisan harnessed to passionately retort the Roman de la Rose is through writing literature of her own - The Book of the City of the Ladies. In her on work, Christine creates a world where three women, allegorical figures representing Reason, Rectitude, and Justice, appear to her. They tell her she is to build the City of Ladies and populate it with the noblest and most accomplished women the world has known. The city is to serve as a safeguard against the cruel accusations of men as well as a reminder of the true and laudable nature of women. This book was written entirely to show that women are not a sort of people in which the Roman de la Rose made the sex out to me and by this creation of The City of Ladies, Pisan thus challenges the male controlled French society in which she lived.

Christine de Pisan influenced the females of the Baroque Period by permanently incorporating feminist ideals into popular literature and by challenging a male led society using her craft of wit and writing. Through her paid work, Pisan showed that women could be the “bread winners” of their families if they but challenged the world that was led by males with wit and intellect. She proved to her French society, as well, that a female could be the equal in intellect and oration (public speaking and debate) to a highly skilled male.

Where Pisan existed in the early Renaissance, Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth Tudor (Queen Elizabeth I of England) existed in the later years of the Renaissance. Anne Boleyn is a special historical figure in the aspect that she influenced a powerful and dangerous King to break away from the Catholic church and, in turn, form his own church. This sort of action was considered not only very serious but was also a premeditated attack against the Catholic church, the authority of the Holy Roman Pope and the members of Catholicism in Renaissance Europe.

Henry Tudor desired a divorce from his first wife, Catherine, in order to sate his maddening temptations which involved marrying and possessing Anne Boleyn for himself. Anne Boleyn is historically believed to have influenced the King to make these drastic and uncharacteristic decisions. Not only did Kind Henry VIII break away from the Catholic church because of the influence of Anne Boleyn, he was able to freely marry her and establish his own church which would become the Anglican Church of England.

By the establishment of the Anglican Church of England, the face of Europe would be changed forever; by the influential tactics of one woman, Ms. Boleyn - second wife to King Henry VIII and mother of the future Queen of England, Elizabeth I. It is here that we see the inadvertent establishment of multiple Protestant religions, the turning of “irrelevancy” of the powers of the Catholic Pope, the establishment of the United States of America and the establishment, then, of American History as a direct result of one woman’s influence in the later years of the Renaissance. If it was not for Anne Boleyn and her influence on King Henry Tudor - The United States of America and Protestantism may not exist today! Anne Boleyn influenced the women of the Baroque Period by expanding religious beliefs, mainstreaming the practice of martial divorce, influencing the establishment of America as well as American trade, American culture and American fashion among many other aspects of American life that was able to blossom as a direct result of the Protestant pilgrims attempting to escape religious persecution in England.

Although Anne Boleyn became a significant historical figure to the formation of Protestantism and the establishment of America, her one concrete contribution to society was birthing the future Queen of England, Elizabeth the first, before she was beheaded at a fairly young age by the same fixated man who broke away from the Catholic church just to have her. King Henry Tudor and Anne Boleyn would never have known that their daughter would become one of the greatest people (and females) the modern world had ever known.

Elizabeth Tudor was only two years old when her mother was executed by her father42. From that point, Elizabeth was labeled an illegitimate child of King Henry VIII by proxy of the annulment of his marriage to Anne Boleyn after her execution. After the death of her father when she was thirteen years old, her nine year old half-brother, Edward VI, ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey (who was his first cousin) and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the eldest sibling, Roman Catholic Mary, in spite of statute law to the contrary. However, because of the efforts of Mary Tudor and her supporters, Edward’s will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. During Mary's reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels. In 1558, due to the death of her sister Queen Mary I, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne and set out to rule by good counsel.

During her reign as Queen of England, Elizabeth accomplished and established a great many things as well as patronized many later Renaissance English writers and poets such as that of William Shakespeare. Besides conducting the war with Spain and eventually subduing the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth also established fashion and design standards, called The Sumptuary Laws, in England that would quickly bring her nation out of the massive debt of her father and siblings and take England into age of Enlightenment.

Sumptuary laws are laws that were passed in England and Europe, from about the mid 1300s, to the mid 1600s, devised to control all sorts of behavior, from the wearing of certain apparel to the consumption of certain foods, beverages, (usually of an alcoholic nature), and other miscellaneous products, to gaming and hunting. These laws also often prescribed what prices could be charged for various consumables, from clothing to food. These laws were established for many reasons including (1) the desire to preserve class distinctions; (2) the desire to check practices which were regarded as deleterious in their effects, due to the feeling that luxury and extravagance were in themselves wicked and harmful to the morals of the people, (3) economic motives: (a) the endeavor to encourage home industries and to discourage the buying of foreign goods, and (b) the attempt on the part of the sovereign to induce his [or her] people to save their money, so that they might be able to help him [or her] out financially in time of need; (4) sheer conservatism and dislike of new fashions or customs, [especially by some of the more conservative clergy, although we might mention that some of the clergy, most notably Wolsey, had a fondness, approaching addiction, for sumptuous finery and new fashion].

In Elizabethan England, these laws attempted to restrict the sumptuousness of dress in order to curb extravagance, protect fortunes, and make clear the necessary and appropriate distinctions between levels of society. The principal concern was that money spent on frivolous display would be better spent on the state of more important things critical to a society always in peril of the neighbors. The other concern was that letting anyone wear just anything must lead inexorably to moral decline. If you couldn't tell a milkmaid from a countess at a glance, the very fabric of society might unravel. However, sumptuary laws were hard to enforce, if not too used as a way to criminalize people who saw others as competition by accusing them of breaking the sumptuary law set forth by the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth of England influenced women of the Baroque Period by allocating certain fabrics and fashion statements as being acceptable to wear. She separated classes and clergy by dictating that each class and sex must appear plainly as their class status to others. Elizabeth Tudor, reflecting an example of a responsible leader, made a “statement” for people to be more fiscally responsible in order to take their nation into an era of prosperity that they had not seen for sometime by setting her dressing codes into practice. Elizabeth also educated females on how to be responsible stewards of their families income by teaching them that there was a limit to their income and that being in debt was something that needed to be taken seriously instead of disregarded. By the money Elizabeth and her people set aside, as a result of being responsible in their fashion senses, Elizabeth was also able to empower her people and military by focusing those saved funds on horses, warships, expanding the arts and expanding educational opportunities within her territories.

Most importantly, Queen Elizabeth the I was an important figurehead to females of her time period and that of the Baroque Period because she set an example for how women should act when given a certain amount of authority. Elizabeth never married, showing that she did not have to conform to the social standards of her day which also helped act as a sort of rebellion of her own in order to assert her authority over those who were “judging her”. As a result of her turbulent childhood, with the death of her mother, father and siblings, Elizabeth was spurred toward her legacy of becoming one of the strongest individuals’ let alone, females, that the world has ever know even to this day!

Women of real-life during the Renaissance period greatly paved the way from the ladies of the Barque Period in many ways many may not have anticipated. However, fictional females also helped paved the way for changes and new opportunities for women of the Baroque Period. Although crafted by males, the females of the art of Leonardo Di Vinci and Michelangelo became prominently affluential in terms of females within the peoples imagination.

One of the most famous painting in the world, The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Di Vinci has created an aura of mystery surrounding the female sex. This sort of aura was extremely unique in the aspect that she (Mona Lisa) was created during a time when females were looked down upon as deceitful, evil and inferior. However, observing this from the Mona Lisa is not apparent as it is obvious that many hours and much effort went into crafting her mystery and the almost fairy-like landscape behind her.

Just the same, the females of Michelangelo’s sculptures lend a sort of delicate and innocent nature toward the female sex as well as the same mystery and intensity of emotions that Leonardo Di Vinci’s painting had. For example, Mother Mary of the Pietà which is now housed in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City exudes a sorrowful reflection based around the death of Jesus Christ, the subjects son60. The sculpture is so meticulously detailed that it rendered the stone to have its own unique “veins of life” which a viewer could easily imagine blood running under the skin. This particular sculpture by Michelangelo seems so life like that one almost anticipates the stone to move - presenting two actual living people pretending to be an inanimate object such as a sculpture.

These two examples of females within a fictional world, that of the world of art; where art imitates life, are two excellent pieces that go completely against typical Renaissance conventions in thinking that females are a despised sex and inferior to man. No, these works of art done by famous males of the Renaissance present a progressive idea that females were very close to ethereal creatures who were simply misunderstood creatures created by God in the same fashion in which man was made.

Further still, the femininity detailed within the work of Christine de Pisan in her Book of the City of the Ladies, helped render a delicate and competent attitude towards a females character and morality62. Not only had a female authored the work but she defended her sex in such a way that was taken seriously by many readers instead of being solely disregarded much like a poorly written book would have been disregarded63. The work of Christine de Pisan exists in modern times as a direct result of its uniqueness for its time period; in that it presented an intellect and wit from an enlightened human female instead of presenting a woman in much of the same light as a “kept” farm animal; only utilized for its meat and other such resources.

Although, perhaps indirect, women and girls portrayed in art and literature influenced both women of the Renaissance and the Baroque Period by setting a precedent of expectation that did not exist in art and literature before the Renaissance Period. After the Renaissance, women were thought less of as evil and more as delicate creatures.

When you consider all of the contributing factors of how the image of females changed from the Middle Ages into the Baroque Period, it becomes quite evident that the Renaissance Period was a major opportunity for women to gain credible traction in endeavors that they would, otherwise, be excluded from simply based off of their sex.

Due to the establishment of Humanistic thought, Isabella D’este and Lucrezia Borgia were given the opportunities to pursue the same (or similar) educations to that of the males of their families. This, in itself, presented these two women with immense opportunities such as conversing with affluential men, propelling Renaissance arts, literature and science forward through their direct patronizing of professional calling.

In addition to their education and patronizing of the arts, the reputations of Isabella and Lucrezia helped present opportunities to other younger generations of girls because of the change in a fathers attitudes towards their female children. Here, history is presented with two females that helped shape the way and influence educational reform through out Europe by presenting themselves as strong and capable females of their times.

Christine de Pisan established the ideology of feminism that last to this day by authoring many feminist works which defended the female sex as well as empowered females after her65. Not only was Christine de Pisan the first paid female author but she was also the first major female to challenge a male led society (and help change it for the better).

The life of Anne Boleyn caused a ripple effect onto the world that she very well did not anticipate. She not only helped create and/or influence the creation of the Anglican Church of England but she also indirectly helped to establish Protestantism as well as the creation of The United States of America using the Protestant pilgrims that came to the “new land” to escape religious persecution as a catalyst.

Further still, Elizabeth Tudor - the daughter of Anne Boleyn, helped influence the women of the Baroque Period by educating her people to be fiscally responsible, by establishing the Sumptuary Laws, and teach her people to not just “think of themselves” but also to think of the world that their children would come into. Queen Elizabeth helped to not only “fine tune” the arts and literature of the late Renaissance Period but also paved the way for formidable female authority in the form of a monarchy; a world that the future Queen Victoria of England would luckily come into like her foremother.

Just the same, females of the Baroque Period would also be influenced by the everlasting mystery and intensity presented by works of fiction, including but not limited to females portrayed in arts and literature.

Enduringly, females of the Baroque Period would have a multitude of influences from the females that came before them during the Renaissance due to fact that the Renaissance Period paved the same for immense and immeasurable change throughout the whole of Europe that would go on to last through the sands of time. Without the activity that took place during the Renaissance, the modern world as a whole would not be where it is today is the aspect that many different ideas and practices were created during the Renaissance Period. Ideas were presented and some “stuck” such as that of feminism via Christine de Pisan. Most assuredly, the people of the Renaissance did not see exactly how much they and their work would go onto influence others after them. It is here, we find the soul of the Renaissance pasted down through the ideas and actions of those who lived in those ages.


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© 2016 Sarah Schwartz


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