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Orendorf, Jennifer Megan.
Architectural chastity belts :
b the window motif as instrument of discipline in fifteenth-century Italian conduct manuals and art
h [electronic resource] /
by Jennifer Megan Orendorf.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
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ABSTRACT: As the Italian thirst for excellence and knowledge burgeoned throughout the Quattrocento, the genre of instructional literature responded accordingly to social demands. Offering advice on a wide range of experience from the quotidian to the extraordinary, from superstition to scientific, conduct manuals appealed to readers of all Italian social classes. Investigating the relationship between this body of literature and the lives of contemporary women, this paper will focus specifically on those manuals which prescribe behaviors for women, and will investigate the reception of these precepts and the extent in which these notions informed and transformed women's lives.In order to better understand this complex relationship, I will focus on one particular piece of advice which recurs throughout instructional literature during this time: the prescribed notion that women should remain far removed from their household windows for the sake of their honor, reputation and chastity. The adherence to such an idea would prohibit women's use of their household windows, confining them to the deep recesses of the home, far from public view and public life. Widely read manuals, such as Alberti's Della Famiglia and Barbaro's Trattati delle donne, promulgated windows as literal "windows of opportunity" to further vice, such as lust, adultery, vanity and profligacy. Furthermore, these concerns are addressed in texts beyond the realm of the prudent, instructional literature; the theme recurs as metaphor for deviancy in both popular fiction and contemporary women's portraiture.Boccaccio's Decameron, a book which conduct manual authors continually deemed inappropriate for women, features several tales in which women carry out affairs by way of their bedroom windows. Within the genre of portrait painting, both Fra Filippo Lippi and Botticelli painted interior scenes which featured women positioned at windows. The synthesis of these seemingly disparate sources, hitherto unexplored within the same context, reveals a complicated moral climate that undoubtedly had decisive consequences for Italian women during the fifteenth century.
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Advisor: Naomi Yavneh, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Architectural Chastity Belts: The Window Mo tif as Instrument of Discipline in Fifteenth-Century Italian Conduct Manuals and Art by Jennifer Megan Orendorf A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts Department of Humanities and American Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Naomi Yavneh, Ph.D. Annette Cozzi, Ph.D. Giovanna Benadusi, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 30, 2009 Keywords: Women, Space, Civic Huma nists, Portraiture, Literature Copyright 2009, Jennifer Megan Orendorf
i Table of Contents List of Figures ii Abstract iii Introduction: Marital Chasti ty and Feminine Conduct: Prescription or Description? 1 Chapter One: A Wifes Civic Duty, Chaste and Enclosed 11 Chapter Two: Windows of Opportunity in Boccaccios Decameron 33 Chapter Three: La Finestra : A New Convention for Portraiture 56 Conclusion 77 Bibliography 81 Primary 81 Secondary 82
ii List of Figures Figure 1. Lippi, Fra Filippo. Woman with a Man at a Window. c. 1438. 58 Figure 2. Botticelli, Sandro. Woman at a Window c. 1470. 59 Figure 3. Baldovinetti, Alessio. Portrait of a Lady in Yellow. c. 1445. 63 Figure 4. Uccello, Paolo. A Young Lady of Fashion, c. 1460 64 Figure 5. Pisanello,Antonio di Puccio. Ginevra d Este, c. 1430 66 Figure 6. Francesca, Piero della. Pendant Portraits of Federico da Montafeltro and Battista Sforza, 1466. 71
iii Architectural Chastity Belts: The Window Mo tif as Instrument of Discipline in Fifteenth-Century Italian Conduct Manuals and Art Jennifer Megan Orendorf ABSTRACT As the Italian thirst for excellenc e and knowledge burgeoned throughout the Quattrocento, the genre of instructional li terature responded accordingly to social demands. Offering advice on a wide range of experience from the quotidian to the extraordinary, from superstition to scientific conduct manuals appealed to readers of all Italian social classes. Inves tigating the relationship between this body of lit erature and the lives of contemporary women, this paper will focus specifically on those manuals which prescribe behaviors for women, and will invest igate the reception of these precepts and the extent in which these notions informed and transformed womens lives. In order to better understand this complex relationship, I wi ll focus on one particular piece of advice which recurs throughout instructional literatu re during this time: the prescribed notion that women should remain far removed from their household windows for the sake of their honor, reputation and chastity. The adhe rence to such an id ea would prohibit womens use of their household windows, conf ining them to the deep recesses of the home, far from public view a nd public life. Widely read manuals, such as Albertis Della Famiglia and Barbaros Trattati delle donne, promulgated windows as literal windows of opportunity to further vice, such as lust, adultery, vanity and profligacy. Furthermore, these concerns are addressed in texts be yond the realm of the pr udent, instructional
iv literature; the theme recurs as metaphor for deviancy in both popular fiction and contemporary womens portraiture. Boccaccios Decameron a book which conduct manual authors continually deemed inappropria te for women, features several tales in which women carry out affairs by way of th eir bedroom windows. Within the genre of portrait painting, both Fra Fili ppo Lippi and Botticelli painted interior scenes which featured women positioned at windows. The synthesis of these seemingly disparate sources, hitherto unexplored within the same context, reveals a complicated moral climate that undoubtedly had decisive cons equences for Italian women during the fifteenth century.
1 Introduction: Marital Chastity and Feminine Co nduct: Prescription or Description? The Italian Quattrocento was an era of shifting paradigms, emerging identities and cultural ideologies. As the Italian thirst for excellence burgeoned throughout the fifteenth century, prescriptive literature flourished and the family, newly recognized for its central importance to the welfare of the state, began to take precedence in the hearts and minds of civic humanists. Francesco Barbaro and Leon Battista Alberti were amongst the first to champion domestic order and virtue as fundame ntal elements of society. Their treatises on the family affirmed that if the family upheld strong morals and strove for excellence then the state would correspondingly prosper and earn universal renown. Generally, it is thought that the emphasis on the family helped to redeem the status of women, providing them greater autono my and influence. However, my research reveals the contrary not al l attention was positive atten tion. As daughters, wives, mothers and brides-to-be were recognized fo r their domestic contribution to society their movements underwent increasingl y strict surveillance as th e home was equated with honor, virtue and proper codes of conduct. Am idst a complicated catalog of virtues prescribed for women, which modern schol ars have variously termed the triune convention of virtues, a dowry of virtue , and even a grab bag of virtues,1 chastity is 1 Margaret King, Women of the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Joanna WoodsMarsden, Portrait of the Lady, 1430-1520. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardos Ginevra de Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001), 64-87; Julia OFaolain and Lauro Martines, Not in Gods Image (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1973), 135-37.
2 always regarded first and foremost so that we might regard chastity as the mistress of the house with all other virtues serving as her handmaidens. This analogy, in truth, is much more poignant than cursory re flection reveals. For fifteenth -century Italian society, the patrician donna della casa was instructed to embody chastity, to become a veritable paragon of virtue for the family, household, a nd even her local parish or community. Her value and identity were intrinsically linke d with the physical bounda ries of the home, themselves fortresses of family honor, pr estige and position. Thus, women and household were perpetually bound to one another, ideol ogically and physically, symbols and chattel, as part of the same social program to wi n public honor and attain virtuous and chaste reputations for the family.2 The following advice, offered by Barbaro in the second book of De Re Uxoria, exemplifies the fifteenth-century no tion of the affinity between woman and household as symbols of honor and reputation: I am wont to compare these men who ar e properly called uxor ious to those who are so pleased with splendid exteriors on their houses while they are forced to do without necessary things inside. Hence, they present a golden faade to give pleasure to neighbors and the passers-by (Barbaro 208). Here, Barbaro equates love of ones wife w ith love of ones home where both house and wife showcase family wealth and prestige. If exterior adornment is taken to the excess then inner virtue is compromised. Barbaro expl ains more directly in the next few lines: Moreover, sumptuous attire, magnificent clothe s, and luxurious apparel give pleasure to those who frequent porticos, open courts a nd sidewalks or very often promenade through 2 For a fascinating discussion of concepts of honor for Roman prostitutes see Elizabeth Cohen, Honor and Gender in the Streets of Early Modern Rome Journal of Interdisciplinary History 22. (Spring 1992), 597625, wherein she examines court records that recoun t instances of public house-scorning in efforts to damage the reputation of prostitutes.
3 the whole city (208). Not only is the decoration of oneself and ones property dangerous at or near the confines of th e home, but Barbaro warns that it may lead to further vice, such as the will and desire to frequent public places, which are, for him, antithetical to domestic values. Barbaros advice reveals the complex associations with women and home, virtue and reputation, display and pub lic space in the fifteenth-century Italian collective consciousness, themes which will serve as the conceptual framework throughout the rest of my thesis. The spatial construction of honor becam e more complicated as certain spaces within the home evaded easy classification, and as a result, were determined morally ambiguous. Liminal spaces, such as windows, balconies, and loggias were suspect because they belied the integrity of the arch itectural boundary between public and private spaces. These interstices were problematic for Quattrocento moralists. Essentially feminine because they were a part of th e home and masculine because they allowed participation with public life, windows and ot her household openings were, both literally and figuratively, voids in regul atory ideals of the period. Pres criptive literature responded to the paradoxical position of these openings by inflating th e behaviors over which male head of households had to be wary and de flating the possibilities of movement for women. In popular culture, these orifices were continually us ed as symbols of deviant behavior and settings for cl andestine affairs; small windows of opportunity that allowed female protagonists to manipulate their confinement a nd interact with the public. Many scholars have identified the Renaissan ce obsession with chastity as a part of a greater social program of values and cust oms. Along with other closely related terms, such as purity, virginity, virtue, and honor, and the Italian terms, onest and virt the
4 Renaissance notion of feminine chastity is obscured through variable language, thus requiring flexible analysis from scholars. Th e sources regarding feminine chastity have been as wide-ranging as the terminology: pres criptive literature, religious sermons, legal documents, letters, and popular culture have all received significant attention. However, the common thread across these varied fields is the claim that the virtue of chastity, for the patrician woman, was essential not only for the ladys success and wellbeing, but also for the success of her family. This wealth of scholarship might be divided into three broad frameworks: feminist, social and cultural. Feminist scholars recognize chastity as a gendered construct for which only women were held accountable, and as fundamental to the patriarchal system, providing men the au thority to control and regulate womens behavior.3 Social historians have focused on the relationship between ideals of chastity and womens social status, occupation, a nd geography, concluding that early modern definitions of chastity were neither absolute nor permanent, but subject to idiosyncrasies and manipulation.4 Historians of early m odern culture have studied chastity as a common theme featured prominently in early modern literature, theatr e, and visual art throughout 3 Julia OFaolain and Lauro Martines (1973) examine the exalted position of virg inity as an accepted and regulatory mode for women, in their words, a stick wherewith to beat all who were not virginal chaste and modest141-143, 176-78. Franco Mormando (1998) examines the sermons on marriage relations given Sienese friar, Bernardino of Siena, in an effort to define whether or not he held progressive or regressive opinion towards womens autonomy. 4 Judith Brown (1986) cites increased importance on women to be religious and moral guides for the family as one factor restricting women from work in the pu blic sphere. Guido Ruggiero (1993) cites the racy poetry of Aretino as the antithesis of the civic mora lity prescribed by Barbar o and Alberti, therefore promoting illicit culture. Michael Rocke (1998) notes that male identity and sense of honor was largely defined by their ability to guard and protect womens chastity, where Sharon Strocchia (1998) examines the public rites of honor in Italian Renaissance cities, conc luding that these rituals prove that society regarded male honor more highly. Gabriella Zarri (1998) is inte rested in the Post-Reformation social disciplining of women in convents whereby a renewe d emphasis on feminine chastity and submission to authority resulted in stricter confinement for nuns. Elizabeth and Thomas Cohen (2001)distinguish honor codes, as separatefrom religious codes, a set of deeply embedded value system which requires separate codes for men and women and which requires that men are respons ible for womens moral and ethical characters.
5 Italy and elsewhere in Europe.5 Finally, several texts and source books contain a combination of these frameworks in their a ssessment of womens experience in the early modern Europe, all of which include substantia l surveys of chastity and sexual virtue for women.6 Modern investigations of chastity reveal the ubiquity and complexity of this essential virtue in Quattrocento Tuscany, along with its variety of applications for current research. Nevertheless, this si ngular virtue that inspired the myth of the chastity belt beckons for further investigation. My work e ndeavors to elaborate on existing scholarship to find a common discourse on chastity that exists between the civic humanists and popular culture; I will examine each genres tr eatment of sexual discipline according to the unique aspects of that genre. Ultimatel y, I hope this thesis will open up new avenues for social and historical inquiry on the i ssues of marital chastity and the social disciplining it engenders so that we might complicate and enrich our understanding of womens experience in the fifteenth-century. Th e origin of chastity belts, devices Eric Dingwall calls the most curious results of je alousy ever invented by man (i), have not been conclusively dated to Europe.7 However, Dingwall believes that it is highly plausible that the device dates back to the medieval times with introduction to Europe 5 Jennifer Nevile (2004) presents the fifteenth-century cu ltural desire to inspire Florentine citizens to virtue through cosmically ordered architectur e, city planning and landscape. Joan Gibsons article The Logic of Chastity: Women, Sex, and the History of Philosophy in the Early Modern Period (2006) deals with the paradoxical position of courtly women and philosophers who were expected to appear chaste while participating in the public arena of the courts. 6 Cissie Fairchilds, Women in Early Modern Europe.1500-1700. (New York: Pearson and Longman Press, 2007); Margaret King, Women of the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe 3rd Ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Mary Rogers and Paola Tinagli, Women in Italy, 1350-1650: Ideals and Realities, A Sourcebook (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2005). 7 Eric Dingwall, The Girdle of Chastity: A History of the Chastity Belt (New York: Dorset Press, 1992)
6 through Italy at the time of the Crusades.8 As difficult as it may be to pinpoint actual uses of chastity belts in the fifteenth-century, a similar tactic, the preservation of feminine chastity through strict confinement to the home, is much more evident and equally as restrictive. Several documentary sources atte st that this practi ce was very real and widespread. Prescriptive literat ure is perhaps the most fruitf ul source providing us with contemporary concern for chastity, but as they offer admonitions and prescribed ideals, to what extent can we accept these texts as re velatory of actual circ umstances for Italian women in the Quattrocento? My inquiry rests with the discipline of marital chastity for fifteenth-century patrician women in Tuscany. Through the study of three disparate sources, prescriptive literature, popular literature, and portraiture, heretofore unexplored together on the subject of sexual discipline and chastity, I hope to uncover new avenues through which to complicate our understanding of womens sexuality. My interest in these distinct sources, aside from a distracting appetite for ecl ecticism, is to unve il or perhaps more appropriately unlock a comm on discourse that re veals fifteenth-cent ury attitudes about womens confinement for the purpose of sa feguarding chastity. By engaging in this discourse, I will explain to what degree it was acceptable for women to transgress the confinement of the home through the wea knesses of its boundaries the household window. As such, my papers focus is threefol d: social constructions of gendered space, discipline of feminine chastity, and tran sgression of accepted norms, three concepts which frequently collapsed into one another. 8 Dingwall argues that extreme jealousy in Europe, and particularly Italy, as seen in the sterner laws over the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, were susceptible to the appeal of girdles of chastity.
7 There is little current scholarship that has studied these them es in conjunction one with another, and none have approach ed these themes by merging prescriptive literature with both popular literature and por traiture for a fuller understanding of womens movement and the regulatory bounda ries of the home. Peter Stallybrasss Patriarchal Territories: The Body Enclosed, argues that as there was a growing concern for morality across the sixteenth and sevent eenth centuries, the female body became more defined as naturally grotesque and therefore n eeded to be contained and kept under strict surveillance. He identifies three locations where surveillance was concentrated: the mouth, chastity and the threshold of the house. Furthermore, Stallybrass remarks that the woman was the emblem of the perfect impe rmeable container, and hence maps out the integrity of the state the state, like the virgin was the hortus conclusus, an enclosed garden walled off from enemies (129). Wh ile Stallybrass makes many of the same connections I have made in doing my resear ch, his interest lies with sixteenth and seventeenth-century Elizabethan society, comp aring the conduct lite rature of Erasmus with popular literature of Shakespeare. Cert ainly, comparisons ac ross the two cultures and periods can be made, but as every cultu re has its own eccentricities, the Italian mentality of the Quattrocento deserves examination. Natalie Tomas takes a different approach in her book A Positive Novelty: Women and Public Life in Renaissance Florence (1992), demonstrating across four differe nt female demographics that women did have opportunities to wiel d political influence. She c oncludes that spatial area was not therefore irrevocably fixed as either pub lic/male or private/female (12). I would agree with Tomas that many women did enj oy certain political fr eedoms, but as her survey includes the activities of exce ptional women during exceptional times her
8 assessment may not apply to all patrician wo men or even the coll ective mentalities about women during the fifteent h-century. Jane Tyluss Women at Windows: Commedia dellarte and Theatrical Practice in Early Modern Italy shares my focus on women who negotiate the boundary between public and private space. Surveying more than one hundred window scenes from Flaminia Scal as plays, Tylus demonstrates that the conspicuous use of window scenes str ove to represent and destabilize the conventionalized spaces which their spectators daily inhabited (342). Tylus argues that within these plays, the middle-class ladies he ld an advantageous position over others in the city because of their acce ss to the world through their windows and the ability to retreat, when need be, to the safety of the household interior. Certai nly her research is important to my own, upon which I hope to a ppend the surveys of portraiture and popular literature. Robert C. Davis s article The Geography of Gender in the Renaissance (1998) focuses on gendered urban public space in Venice, where the accounts of foreign travelers reveal the rigidness with which patrician ladies were locked away in their homes and rarely seen in public. Their exclusion, Da vis argues, is due to the myriad of maledriven activities which ostracized women from public places and made many areas of the city truly dangerous for women. Women responded by putting on an exaggerated spectacles of feminine display such as pa rading through the streets in extremely high platform shoes. Because these spaces were self-fashioned by men and women in society both rituals define gendered sp ace within the city on cultural rather than natural terms. Most recently, Lauro Martin es has conducted a survey of popular literature from Boccaccio in the fourteenth century to Lorenzo Salva in the late sixteenth century. This survey is concerned with the prevalent theme of seduc tion throughout these 251 popular
9 tales and the threat amorous affairs pose to the domestic space. Like me, Martines strongly believes that because culture expresse d a need for stories with familiar themes, characters and places, these fict ional tales are an invaluable and fairly accurate source of everyday affairs. As his focus is seduction, th is essay also hinges on the location of the window of the home, where the majority of the scenes of seduction take place. Furthermore, Martines also includes a di scussion on the language of the eye which relied on these household openings in order to ca rry out illicit affairs. He states, This too is why window and door area, particularly the former, are so often singled out in Renaissance fiction; eye cont act was made there and ocular signals were frequently transmitted at windows (213). Mart ines's survey of literature is impressive, but as such, he does not dedicate specific analysis to the Boccaccio stories, with which I am concerned in chapter two. My goal with my cl ose analysis of these stories along with the comparison with the ideas set forth in Barbar os and Albertis trea tises and the themes presented in Lippis and Botticellis portraiture that I can enrich and broaden the scope of the works of these earlier scholars. Using the civic humanists, Francesco Barbaro and Leon Battista Alberti as my points of entry in chapter one, Womens Ci vic Duty: Chaste and Enclosed, I hope to reveal ideologies of fe minine virtue through thei r highly influential texts On Wifely Duties and Della Famiglia, respectively. However, prescrip tive literature is problematic, offering a means of securing an ideal rather than describing reality. Therefore I aim to elucidate the validity of thes e treatises with further disc ussion of two forms of popular culture: literature and art. Combining learne d, instructional texts with popular sources without overt didactic purposes allows for a fuller picture of Quattr ocento attitudes. In
10 chapter two, Windows of Opportunity, I will examine three tales from Boccaccios Decameron which incorporate the th eme of women utilizing their windows to subvert patriarchal control. My third and final chapter, La Finestra : A New Convention for Portraiture, focuses on visual art as text wherein I will analyze two fifteenth-century portraits one by Fra Filippo Li ppi and another by Sandro Botti celli, both of which feature women situated at their windows, an anomal ous convention for portraiture at the time, and therefore, all the more provocative for further study.
11 Chapter One: A Wifes Civic Duty, Chaste and Enclosed Humanist tracts have certai nly given modern historians valuable insight into attitudes on the family, acculturation of private life, household management, and mercantile society as well as providing for posterity an intimate portrait of conjugal and kinship relations in the fifteenth century. Ho wever, sexual chastity has not been a central focus of humanist literature, and as they were widely read manuals on the subject of the family, Francesco Barbaros De Re Uxoria and Leon Battista Albertis Della Famiglia may provide us with new contexts from which we may better understand prevailing ideals about womens sexual conduct in Quattrocento Tuscan cities.9 The authority given to civic humanists on matters of the family has been widelyrecognized by modern historians and scholar s. The treatises by Francesco Barbaro and Leon Battista Alberti are invaluable sources for historians of the fifteenth century interested in studying the unique position of th e Italian family and its relationship with society and evolving mercantile economy. Similarly these huma nists tracts allow us to trace the fifteenth-century acculturation process through assimilation of classical philosophy and humanism. Studied for their dist inctive portrait of mercantile society in contrast with the courtly lifestyle made famous in Castigliones Il Cortegiano Barbaros and Albertis works have fascinated social historians. Of course, Barbaro and Alberti 9 Throughout this chapter references to Barbaros text pertain to Benjamin G. Kohls translation included in The Earthly Republic: Italian Humanists on Government and Society 1978, and references to Albertis treatise come from Rene Neu Watkinss translation of I Libri della Famiglia I-IV, 2004.
12 continue to be cited in n early every study which concerns attitudes about women and the position they held in the fifteenth century, but beyond citing these sources as evidence of prevailing attitudes, there is st ill the need to conduct more thorough investigation into the ways in which these treatises directly impacted womens daily lives. This chapter encourages reflection as to the tone, presenta tion, and intended audience of these treatises with their prescriptions for womens chastity in the fifteenth century in an effort to understand how deeply womens lives were conditioned according to these highly esteemed conduct manuals on family. Barbaros De Re Uxoria and Albertis Della Famiglia were both widely-read works, receiv ing a great deal of praise from contemporary audiences, and thus I believe their impact on fifteenth-century conceptions of the family were significant. The Quattrocento was for Italy a crucial period in the establishment and the refinement of conduct, morals, and behavi or. Marked by their renewed interest in extensive knowledge on a wide range of differe nt topics and the desire to demonstrate grace and skill in a variety of activities, It alians were indeed leaders in a cultural flourishing. This fervor for human excellence was compleme nted, indeed promoted, by the invention of the printing press in 1440. With the agency to reach members of plebian society, informing those who were previously ignorant of the speci alized teaching that was privileged only to the learned elite, pr inted texts burgeoned under the support of the newer, wider market. However, the nascent stage of publishi ng culture during this period and the waning existence in the scribal tradition result ed in a complex culture of literary texts. Certainly there was contradiction between the de sire for erudite material and the realities
13 of what consumers received in exchange for their money and eagerness. Before the introduction of the plagiarism law and publica tion parameters, it was up to the individual publisher to evaluate the mer its of any given text. Motivated by economic gain rather than an interest in the merits of a particul ar manuscript, publishers would put nearly any text to print that was viewed as a prospectiv e best-seller. Just as in the twenty-first century, where scholars struggle with the weal th of information ma de available through modern technology and publicly authored websites, the fifteenth century had yet to regulate information that circulated to the publ ic. Paradox lies in the fact that during this time there was also a deeply rooted belief in the power of the printed word. Inquiring minds invested whole-heartedly in the luxury of books, following credulously the doctrines of their hard-earned possessions. Reputable texts like those of Francesco Barbaro and Leon Battista Alberti helped to bridge this transition, applying their knowledge of classical doctrine and philos ophy to their contemporary treatises which were relevant and familiar for their readers. Rudolph Bell suggests that conduct manuals we re as prevalent in fifteenth-century Italian society as How-to books are today, a nd Gabriella Zarris extensive survey of prescriptive literature writt en expressly for women between the years 1471 and 1700 reveals 2,626 vernacular texts, an impressive figure which testifies to early modern demand for conduct and courtesy literature (Bell 6). Benjamin Kohl, translator of the version of De Re Uxoria cited here, argues Barbaro to have been a celebrated scholar in his own time, stating that the tract was met with much approval amongst friends and learne d elite in all of the prominent Northern
14 Italian cities.10 Furthermore, the staggering facts and figures perhaps better testify to the success of Barbaros youthful tracts. Accord ing to Kohl, who derives his information from a seminal scholar on Barbaro, P.O. Kriste ller, there exist more than fifty manuscript copies of De Re Uxoria nearly all of which were copi ed in the fifteenth century, and several English and French tr anslations exist from well into the seventeenth century.11 Extant manuscripts of Alberti s work indicate that he enj oyed similar success. Although it was not printed until the nineteenth century, evidence suggests that Albertis text would have been well known to his contemporaries and was lauded for its erudition and merit. Albertis choice of the ve rnacular language and dialogue form appealed to his contemporary audience and encouraged comm entary from opposing points of view. Thirteen fifteenth-century manuscripts survive today and, according to Girolamo Mancini, at least eight sixteenth and se venteenth-century scholars cited Alberti.12 Championing the family at the heart of th e mercantile state, Barbaro and Alberti both extol the importance of th e economic role of wife and mother for the maintenance and prosperity of the household, and above all to provide offspring toward the extension of the family line. Accordingly, both De Re Uxoria and Della Famiglia dedicate a substantial portion of the treatise to prescriptions for the ideal wife and mistress of the house. As we have already seen the gravity with which chastity was regarded, it is not surprising to find that it featur es centrally in each authors portrait of the ideal wife and mother as an essential virtue which every wo man must possess if she were to bring honor and success to her family and household. 10 Benjamin Kohl, Introduction: De Re Uxoria. The Earthly Republic: Italian Humanists and Government and Society. (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978.) 11 Ibid., 186. 12 Renee Neu Watkins, Introduction. I Libri della Famiglia I-IV. (Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc., 2004.)
15 I will begin with discussion of Barbaro s slightly earlier treatise, begun in 1415 and presented to the newlywed Medici coupl e in 1416, examining first its literary context and form so that I may then interpret th e meaning and implications of Barbaros prescriptions on virtue for contemporaries. The chosen title for his treatise, De Re Uxoria, or On Wifely Duties, appears patently obvious. This tract clearly descri bes a female subject and implies female readership, specifically those who are, or are soon to become wives. Contrary to what the title implies, we soon learn from the dedi cation that Barbaro has intended his treatise expressly for a male audience, as his dedicati on is riddled with honorab le mentions of the names of male elites, both historical and contemporary. Conversely, not one single womans name is mentioned throughout thes e introductory pages, therefore relegating women to the object rather th an the subject of discussion on the economy of the family and household management, realms in which, in actuality, women played a central and active role. To better understand the context of th e treatise, I will hereby recount the interlocutors involved in the treatises conception and circul ation. First of all, Barbaro dedicates his book to the very prominent and no ble member of the Medici family, Lorenzo de Giovanni de Medici brother to Cosimo the Grea t, on the occasion of his new marriage to whom Barbaro concedes that it is a folly of past traditions to offer fine gifts to new grooms with the hopes that the expres sions of gratitude will yield even greater profits. This said, Barbaro believes there to be no finer gift to bestow than the advice of one friend to another, particularly advice which promises success and prosperity in marriage. In essence, although Lorenzo has already acquired a wife in person and in
16 position, Barbaro now offers him the pricel ess gift of her quality, manners and personality, the ornaments to complete the p ackage gifted to him. Lorenzos soon-to-be bride is only a passive refere nt throughout this male-domin ated exchange of gifts and property. To add insult to injury, she is di smembered, exchanged on separate occasions, first physically and then qualitatively. This exchange extends to severa l other men beyond these two primary interlocutors, Barbaro and his dedicatee Lo renzo. Many other prominent male figures, Barbaro states, have contributed to this discussion on women and it is purported that more still will find a need for such useful instruction. Barbaro mentions that his good friend, the nobleman Zaccaria Trevisan, contri buted to initial disc ussion about the duties of a wife, and these, moreover, were develope d from the expertise of the ancients on such matters. Thus, Barbaro conveys a round table discussion, consisting exclusively of male participants, all of whom have collaborated to formulate th e prescriptions presented in De Re Uxoria which are then to be gifted to a nobleman embarking on the first few months of marriage. Having described the origin of his ideas, where it now seems appropriate to acknowledge both members of the noble couple and offer congratulations for the bride to be, (the ostensible subject of the treatis e), Barbaro begins a long list of Lorenzos kinsmen and close friends, as a reminder of the legacy which he must uphold and of the good example he must set for others. Barbaro praises Lorenzo for imitating both his father Giovanni and brother Cosimo in great de eds, and then continues to list the learned and esteemed men with whom he associates, among whom are Roberto Rossi, Leonardo Bruni and Niccolo Niccoli.
17 In his farewell to Lorenzo, before he begi ns the prescriptions for his wife and the wives of his acquaintances, Barbaro makes one last reference to fellow men, thus assuring his male readership of the relevanc y of this matter to th e patriarchal order. Likening himself to Alexander the Great and Lo renzo to Xenocrates, Barbaro presents an allegorical tale in which Xenocrates declined Alexanders gift of gold for the reason that he had no use for riches. To his refusal, Alexa nder replied that it may have been true that Xenocrates may had no use for riches, but that certainly he would allow to offer his friendship. Thus, Barbaro defends the merits of his tract in that he has gained pleasure in offering counsel to others on a subject he j udges to be noble and valuable. Barbaro has made it abundantly clear that while his tract will address wives a nd their daily duties, ultimately husbands are responsible for their wi ves behavior. Truly, it is the elite society of men, faced with the task of marriage for procreation, whom Barbaro addresses with the intent of educating them in proper and efficient ways of managing their households through the disciplini ng of their wives. 13 As I have shown in the introduction, the virtue of chastity incorporates many other virtues which exemplify and promote th e cardinal virtue of chastity. Barbaros admonitions are an excellent example of this relationship between the prescribed virtues for women. His assimilation of ancient ideals regarding modesty and strict discipline of women through confinement to the home re veal Barbaros processes of developing relevant modes of discipline for his contemporary aristocratic families and their wives. 13 The responsibility for men to create a model of decorum for women and then inform society of this model continued throughout the fifteenth century. Wi esner-Hanks identifies the sixteenth century as the earliest in which books were written for girls, and these were in the form of Protestant devotional books. It was not until the seventeenth century th at a few secular books were written specifically for girls, such as guides to conversation and manners, and even romances, though they continued to be strongly moral in tone and concentrated on chastity (Wiesner-Hanks 151).
18 Modesty, one of the more common virtue s directly associated with womens chastity, is a central theme and a necessary requirement for women according to Barbaro. For Barbaro, a womans outward show of mode sty in all aspects of her behavior would demonstrate her chastity. On this point, Ba rbaro explains modera tion in a wife is believed to consist especially in controlling her demeanor, behavior, speech, dress, eating and lovemaking (Barbaro 202). Barbaro w ould have women practice modesty in all activities in which they take part, citing se veral famous Greek wives as exempla, who, through natural love for their husbands, e xhibited unwavering devotion and restraint. With these exempla, Barbaro is particularly aware of the female gaze, a theme he makes central to each of these discussions on fe minine ideals. The eyes, the windows to the soul, were believed to reveal a persons innermost feelings and thoughts, which would be inappropriate for a lady to reveal to others.14 To avoid this indecorous candor, women were taught to avert their eyes from ev eryone except their husbands. To this end, contemporaries should remember the Spartan practice of ve iling married womens faces when out in public, whilst the virgin women we re free to wear their faces bare so that men could easily determine that they were available for marriage. Similarly, Barbaro lauds Cretans who allowed young girls to stand in their doorways to sing and joke and play games with their suitors. But when thei r women are married they have to stay at home (203). He extends praise for this practice to the principles of the Greek Gorgias, who wanted women shut up in their homes so that nothing could be known of them except for their reputations (203). Barbaro s conclusion on the topic of modesty are critical in developing his own unique unders tanding of the appropriateness for the 14 The eyes were a very popular sy mbol in amorous poetry following in the style of Petrarch, wherefrom piercing arrows sprung and enraptured unguarded lovers. See ONeill Virtue and Beauty: The Renaissance image of the ideal woman.
19 confinement of wives and those liberties a wife should be allowed in public life. He concludes that his Italian readers should practice a mi ddle ground regarding womens confinement in the home, somewhere between the harsh precepts of Gorgias the Greek and the liberal principles of Thucydides, whose fondness for his wife made him weak, and this weakness led him to provide his wife with too much freedom. I am not, however, suggesting that Ba rbaro was a revolutionary feminist promoting unheard of freedoms fo r women. Compared with the extreme ideas of Gorgias, Barbaros advice is certainly much more lib eral, but his admoniti ons on wifely conduct are still incredibly restric tive, offering wives no autonomy to govern their own conduct. That the responsibility for wife ly conduct fell on the husband is recalled in the wisdom of a popular adage that wives should not act wi th their husbands as does the moon the moon goes out only when the sun is absent. Barbaro does not forbid women from going out in public altogether, but he makes it cl ear that no woman shoul d venture outside of the home without her husband as chaperone. Th at Barbaro felt the need to address a discrepancy between different schools of Greek philosophical thought on matters of disciplining wives is important in and of itsel f. His mediating position testifies to the lack of resolve on this issue amongst even th e most revered Greek moralists. Barbaros recommendations are a compromise between the two Greek extremes, providing Italians with sound, if still very limited prescrip tions for governing wives sexual conduct. As with modesty, womens sumptuous dr ess is a central c oncern for Barbaro because it was thought that indulgence in dress would lead directly to lusty desires and loosening of chaste morals. Throughout his second book, Barbaro strongly censured ornate and elaborate dress fo r women, conceding with the ju dicious advice that such
20 wives are apt to turn from their own husbands and to ot her lovers (207). Barbaro validates the claim of this ancient scholar, w hom he fails to name, in very clear language of his own. He states that wives wear and esteem all those fine garments so that men other than their own husbands will be impr essed and pleased (208). By continually linking subsequent vices to th e problem of womens chastit y, Barbaro effectively appeals to the foremost concern of his wedded kinsmen: the fear that their wives would turn their affections to other men, eventually resu lting in the loss of their chastity. However, Barbaro brings hope for th e distrustful husbands, prescribing a disciplinary measure that will ensure the double benefit that husbands pocketbooks do not suffer and that their wives will willingly agree to remain indoors. Barbaro informs his readers through the expert advice provided in Plutarchs Moralia and didactic tone here clearly meant for mens perusal: [I]f we were to deprive most women of their sumptuous clothes, they would gladly and willingly stay at ho me (208). Fifteenth-century patriarchal ideologies equated womens desire to be seen and pride in appearance with unchaste morals and fed male fears that women would transgress social boundaries if provided motivation for public sp ectacle. The resolve with whic h Barbaro adheres to this equation recalls the passage ci ted from his treatise in the introduction where excess pride in household exteriors reflected vain and dange rous social mores at the expense of the more important matter of inner concerns that are neglected. Modesty and sober dress and comportment were not the only subjects worthy of Barbaros attention. Even seemingly rudimentar y aspects of life, such as a womans diet, were given careful consideration as to the effects they might have on a womans sexual appetite and carnal desire. Ba rbaro reminds his readers that the holy nuns practice ascetic
21 dietary restrictions in order to curb all physical desires, fearing that any indulgence in delicate foods would contaminate their inno cent minds and elicit salacious behavior. Under each subheading that details a new asp ect of feminine activity lies the perpetual concern for her chastity as pr oponent of all other virtues. This trend of examining social and moral ideologies for female behavior, marked by an urgency to define every vice as a ga teway towards sexual depravity, continues throughout De Re Uxoria. Addressed as a guidebook for wo men, yet clearly intended for men, Barbaro manages, throughout nine chapte rs all dedicated to nine different necessary duties for the wife, to continuall y reiterate the many roads which potentially lead to womens loss of chastity. This infl ation of qualities over which men had to be wary in order to control their womens se xuality had decisive and profound effects on womens position in fifteenth-century Tus cany. As we might logically conclude, womens confinement increased with the rise in fear for womens sexual indiscretions. Certainly, the possibility of womens infidelity looms as a central theme throughout Barbaros treatise, a theme which I believe was similarly prevalent in mens minds in Quattrocento Tuscany. For Leon Battista Alberti, wives freedoms and access to the public sphere provided a complementary, if entirely new set of concerns for the Quattrocento Italian paterfamilias. Undoubtedly, Alberti was concerned with feminine morals as much as was Barbaro, yet his treatise, Della Famiglia, cites practical and economic reasons for maintaining womens chastity. For Alberti, personal merits are directly related to economic prosperity and the survival of the paternal line. Even more so than Barbaro, Albertis advice stresses the importance of the preservation of the family through proper
22 household management. The family, a microcosmi c model of the larger social structure, needed as its nucleus, the wife and mother, virtuous role m odel and custodian of order. Albertis tone does not differ much from Barbaros treatise, written only a few decades prior, yet, with Della Famiglia there is a relative increase in womens responsibilities as donne delle case This increase in respon sibility, however, does not provide women with more autonomy. In fact, on the contrary, I pos it that as womens role and function within the household becam e more central, so too does their position within it. True to popular opinion, Alberti ridicules all women who do not strive, at all costs, to uphold chaste morals and proper decorum. Honor and re putation had direct consequences for the success of the family, and as such, all women have a duty to act respectably. On the condition that societ y supports a strict system of household confinement and that the wifes primary oblig ation is to the hous ehold, Alberti grants credence to the rule that the wife should always remain locked up inside where she could properly mind the home. Albertis ideal wife served a utilitarian function, where the terms of the marriage necessitated her cont inued attention to household affairs so that her husbands time could be spent attendi ng to public matters. Thus, Albertis considerably higher regard for wifely duties did not allow her more self-rule than did Barbaros. In fact, Alberti admonitions endor se even stricter confinement of women. Della Famiglia is written as a conversation that takes place betw een several men who have gathered to pay their respects to a dying elder. Giannozzo, the predominant speaker of the third book, is a close and tr usted friend of the family who stops by to spend an afternoon visiting with those who ha ve gathered in the home. When asked for
23 his prudent advice on how to run a successf ul home, Giannozzo recounts for his young listeners the three instructions he offered his new wife upon entering his home after their marriage. According to Giannozzo, the wife should: first, and most importantly, never share the nuptial bed with another man; second, should preside over the household with modesty, serenity and tranquility; and finall y, ensure that the household runs smoothly and free of mishap. He praises the wife who has been trained in modesty and virtue, and who, like his wife, fully exemplifies both of these qualities along with her skills in needlework. She should not learn special skills prior to marrying and so that she can be instructed by her husband in the manner with which he would like his home to be run. When asked what a husband can do in order to reinforce these three points to his wife, Giannozzo replies that the husband can hope to shun every appearance of unchastity if the couple prays together so that God might grant them each their specific virtues. Accordingly, Giannozzo prays for the masc uline ornaments of riches, friendship and honor and his wife for the virtues of integrit y, purity and character of the perfect mistress of the household. After prayer, Giannozzo further counsels his wife on the singular importance of achieving and then maintaining a chaste reputation. In order to do so, every deed must be in harmony with proper femini ne decorum. She should shun make-up, keep her cast eyes downward, eschew improper spee ch, and avoid vanities lest she provoke disdain from her kin and nei ghbors. Albertis treatise, lik e Barbaros, exhibits an interrelated and complex program of virtues, all of which complemented the cardinal virtue of chastity. The interlocutors discussion of the dutie s of a wife discloses contemporary male anxieties about womens behavi or and the fear that women could potentially act against
24 the concerns of the family and household. Giannozzo, ever wary of impending doom, advises prudence in all matters concerning a mans estate and honor, where even the wife must prove herself trustworthy in the serv ice of the family. Giannozzo urges that paterfamilias practice constant vigilan ce over all wifely activities. This mistrust is taken to the extreme where Giannozzo insists that hu sbands keep secrets from their wives. For example, he forbids his wife to enter study and to read any formal documents written by or to him. Although the study was located wi thin the walls of the home, its public function made it inaccessible to women. T hus, space alone did not determine womens movement within the house hold, but the function and purpose of the rooms defined acceptable limits for women. Giannozzo prides himself on his judiciousness, recommending his rule, never to speak with [his wife] of anything but household matters or questions of conduct, or of the children (210). Only in keeping his wife ignorant of public (male) affairs and limiting her access to household spaces which served public function does Giannozzo feel assured of the stability of the household. Restricting wives liberties was a fundament al tactic in maintaining authority and control over the household. Specifically, it is Al bertis attention to luminal spaces of the home, such as the household windows, which reveals his meticulousness to matters of feminine conduct. Alberti expressly names th e vice of women sitting at their household windows as counteractive to household economy and thrift upon which family governance depends. Compared with Barbaro, Albertis prescriptions are much more exacting, thus, answering the fift eenth-century call for precise law and order. For Alberti, windows were symbols of idleness and frivolity, the antithesis of the spindle and distaff which were long-established symbols of femi nine productivity and virtue. Fulfilling the
25 early modern penchant for dichotomous comparison, windows become the attribute of the vice-ridden, lust-driven female the converse to the sewing needle of the industrious and dutiful wife and mother. Alberti abhors idle activity and reveres time as a God-given asset with which man must utilize wisely; to be frivolous with tim e is a detriment to the family. Notably, the patriarch, Giannozzo is once again, the mout hpiece for Alberti, targeting the household window as catalyst for the unforgiveable fema le vice of misspent time. As he dictates instructions to his wife to carefully mind the household possessions, he maintains that in order for her to be dutiful, she must not sp end all day sitting idly by with [her] elbows on the window sill, like some lazy wives w ho always hold their sewing in their hands for an excuse, but their sewing never gets done (222). The image of the wife with sewing needle in hand while perched at the window sill, presents a visual paradox of both virtue and vice. The window negates any wifely virtue that might have been earned through the task of sewing. While the spi ndle, needle and distaff were common symbols of feminine virtue, here the window becomes the antithetical symbol of vice. Evidence of spatially arranged conceptions of proper feminine conduct persists throughout the chapter. As the interlocutor s, Giannozzo and Lionardo, discuss by what means men can effectively manage their hous ehold in both public and private matters, Giannozzo advocates allotting some of the tri fling household duties to the wife, for to tell the truth, it would hardly win us respect if our wife busied herself among the men in the marketplace, out in the public eye (207) When asked what he thought on the matter, Lionardo, the book-learned youth, respon ds that the ancients would agree with Giannozzos opinion of womens nature and corresponding duties. Recalling the doctrine
26 of the ancients on what duties were appropr iate for women and men, Lionardo replies: Nature thus provided for our well-being, arranging for men to bring things home and for women to guard them. The woman, as she re mains locked up at home, should watch over things by staying at her post, by diligent care and watchfulness (207). Lionardo elaborates on this premise of gendered re sponsibilities by reminding his listeners that men who occupy their time alongside the ladies and take part in the minor matters of the household should be scorned and labeled effeminate for neglecting their greater public, manly and honorable concerns. As Lionardo describes them: They are contemptible in their apparent inclination to play the part of women rather than that of men (208). Lionardo effectively transforms what the ancients understood as natural gendered assignments to contemporary and socially-determined constructions of masculine and feminine responsibilities. Al bertis formula for the well-run household hinges on gendered separation of duties according to modes of public and private activity and acceptable social interaction. He a sserts that it is imperative for the paterfamilias to receive support from all members of househol d in order for it to run smoothly. Wives especially, are obligated to assist their husbands, but necessarily must do so while remaining strictly conf ined to the home. Giannozzos judgment of feminine duty largely confirms to what are the mainstream ideals of the fifteenth century th at women are capable of fulfilling domestic roles within the home. However, in one in stance, Giannozzo undermines his wifes achievements in an acerbic remark that ca rries misogynistic undertones. Refusing his wife due credit where she deserves it, he decries her good work, claiming that she has only been effectual with her domestic tasks because he has provide d her with excellent
27 instruction. Patriarchal ideologies entailed absolute authority for paterfamilias and according to Giannozzo, it was much too early for equality between wife and husband. One final passage describes proper discip line for wives who have gone astray. To correct wayward wives the paterfamilias must utilize the public sphere and pressure of public opinion to shame wives into reforming themselves. This tactic further establishes the fifteenth-century equation of the interior of the home with propr iety and the outside realm with indecency. In nearly every rega rd, Giannozzo believes his young bride to be chaste and contented, but when she fails, Giannozzo is not shy to mete out public punishment. He recounts that on the few occas ions he would have her appear as she should in public, I made her open our own door and go outside prac ticing self-restraint and grave demeanor. This led our neighbors to ob serve her air of discretion and to praise her, which increased the respect of our own servants (229). Because she has overstepped the bounds set forth by her husband, Giannozzo literally asks her to overstep the household boundaries to perform a public spectacle to earn back family honor with public favor. The occasions for which patrician women appear in public are rare, so that when women did appear in public they commanded attention. Giannozzos wife seldom enters into public view. Consequently, when she vent ures out, her conduct n eeds to be carefully considered, moderate and decorous, exem plary of her honor and station. Giannozzo exploits the influential power of the public by making the streets a place in which she must go to reform herself. As the moth er is the example for her children, the donna della casa is the role model for her servants and token of virtue for the household. Civic morality, according to Barbaro and Alberti, depended on a complex system of familial mores where there exists an affinity between household and commonwealth.
28 Guido Ruggiero, studying relationships of se x and marriage in the sixteenth century, concludes that as this discourse of civic morality became more and more of a given in Renaissance culture, it helped to formulate ye t stricter gender ster eotypes and increased pressure to restrict and place women firmly in a disciplined domestic space (15). We may see this trend begin to evolve even in the few intervening decades between which Barbaro and Alberti wrote. With little diffi culty, later moralists expanded on these basics values set forth by their forefathers to include increasingly precise prescriptions as to the sorts of activities appropriate for women, and thus, a throng of advice addressed specifically to the concerns about womens activities at the window appear after the fifteenth century. Sixteenth-cen tury conduct manuals continua lly warned women to stay away from the window or balcony lest they been seen in public view and warned men to become all the more cautious about the amount of time their women were permitted to be present in these luminal spaces surrounding the household. Later advice began to make more extreme, exacting claims such as this one found in Cardinal Antonianos advice to the parents of adolescents: Do not let he r hang out the window or balcony to show herself off or flirt with a passerby (A ntoniano, quoted in Bell 180). Bartolommeo de Medinas similar recommendation in describing the ideal, virtuous wife admonishes that she should make her primary concern the childr en, not vanity and pomp in her own attire: She must not hang out the window or otherwis e let herself be viewed by outsiders as if she were for sale (Medina, quoted in Bell 238). According to Medina, a woman showing herself in public is automatically so liciting herself to others. He blames the curious women, not the lust-driven men who seek them out, for the fault of inciting lust. Agostino Gallos widespread advice almanac de scribes bad women as those who want
29 to hang out at the doorstep, all day or at the window like a crazy woman with no sense of shame, scandalizing the whole c ity (Gallo, quoted in Bell 256). Gallo imagines that the actions of one flagrant woman who steps out of bounds will bring ill repute for the entire city, and her society should feel ashame d by her misconduct because, as women were thought to be morally inept, her poor beha vior communicates so cietys failure to discipline its women. While civic humanists produced a vast num ber of treatises on conduct, religious leaders were amongst the most prodigious au thors of advice on womens sexual conduct and moral behavior. In The Catechism of the Council of Trent church fathers, in a tone much like Barbaros who had earlier warned ag ainst the female gaze, were directed to lead their congregation to good, wholesome conduct, reminding them to be chary of the eye, which is the most insidious inlet for lust ( Catechism quoted in Bell 197). Their sermons aim to regulate womens behavior according to proper moral and religious doctrine, each requiring that a woman stay fa r-removed from public view. These manuals recognize the prevalence of lust in society but misdirect th eir aims and affix this vice only to women. Rather than helping the lu stful to absolve themselves, the advice manuals endeavor to make women invisibl e, erasing the problem at the source. In addition to the fear that window s would encourage lust, windows were perceived as instruments through which one c ould inappropriately flaunt the wealth and the property of the household interior to t hose passing by, from which conceit and greed might ensue. Bombardos advice manual, Compania della Lesina advises that a man should choose a wife who is small for the r eason that she will be too short to expose herself at the window, so she wont need as many garments anyway (Bombardo, quoted
30 in Bell 199). For Bombardo, having a short wi fe eliminates two problems: she will be too short to even be seen and lusted over by others; and, secondly, by virtue of this she will not develop a taste for fineries that he argues women naturally have when they enjoy attention and flattery from others. Bo mbardo fears windows are the cause of both womens licentiousness and greed for expensiv e things. His solution is to make women feel plain, even ugly, so that their own insecu rities and self-consciousness will urge them to hide indoors, as if confining women to austerity will cause them shame at being seen by others. The extent to which this soluti on might have been effective underscores the importance of the display culture duri ng the fifteenth century in Tuscany. Furthermore, evidence from the manual s suggest that there exists a mode of toleration that allows a woman to frequent windows based on her age, class, marital status and virginity. Apparently for some conduct manual-devotees there are certain women who face harsher repercussions because of their status, others less so. Women need men to guide and direct their actions to good ends, and single women, who lack male guardians are thought to be more sus ceptible to vice, crime and dishonor. Similarly, conduct manuals remind readers that virgin wo men should be strictly chaperoned so that they do not fall victim to the dreaded windows. Gozze explains this contemporary ideology where he admonishes that, virgins should not be running from house to house, nor should they be lingering or chatting in the piazza. Once you have your daughter properly enclosed at home, see that she doe s not expose herself at the windows or hang out at the balcony (168). Gozze conceives of the outdoors as a forbidding, dangerous place for virgins and the home a safe respite from the hazards abroad. However, even the home has its defects and families of young virg in daughters should not fall prey to the
31 false sense of security so long as windows s till allow for even a m odicum of interaction with public life. Whether these manual authors motivations stem from mistrust of women and the fear of the adulteration of the patriliny, fr om dread of shame and dishonor, or from disdain of idle behavior and loss of family economy, they all pointed to the same end: that it would be unseemly, inappropriate and perhaps unforgivable if a lady wished to seat herself at her household window to look out onto the world beyond her home. The seriousness with which at least some of society considered this offense is expressed in the fifteenth-century manual, The Ten Commandments of Brother Cherubino, where the preacher advises men to use physical punishments sparingly : You should beat her, I say, only when she commits a serious wrong: for example, if she blasphemes against God or a saint, if she mutters the devils name, if she likes being at the window and lends a ready ear to dishonest young men, or if she has taken to bad habits or bad company, or commits some other wrong that is a mortal sin. Then readily beat her, not in rage but out of charity and concern for her soul, so that the bea ting will redound to your merit and her good. (OFaolain and Martines 177, my italics) Including women who enjoy spending time at their household windows amidst other serious feminine vices such as blas pheming against god or committing mortal sins, expresses the gravity with which the fift eenth-century consciousness regarded the problem of womens breach of household bound aries and the strict confinement they entailed. As the weak points in the bounda ry between public and private spheres,
32 windows harbored the possibilities for women to subvert the patriarchal system and gain a degree of power and autonomy. Certainly some women use th eir windows to effect very real offenses, but not all women who hang out of windows are guilty of committing unchaste acts. Rather, these women are guilty of the suspicion they garner from others near to them or for the potential to rouse impure feelings in themselves or others. The fact th at this advice is so tediously repeated testifies to the difficulty with which women are able to accept moralizing doctrine. The nature of the advi ce is ambiguous and confusing to a culture that values opulent display and beauty. Scholars, who study the chivalric romances, painting, sculpture, poetry and literary traditio ns, agree that a culture of display drives societal values in the fift eenth century. On the one hand, women are ornaments to be admired, representing the very core of fam ily virtue, honor and wealth. On the other hand, the hand that pens the pres criptive literature of the age, women are not to be seen by others. Women are to be hidden away so th at only those who have rights to them are allowed to look their fill; w ith women safely contained w ithin the walls of the home, proper patriarchal order is rest ored and maintained. The earliest form of the chastity belt is effectively in place and the husbands who hol d the keys control their wives fates. To the women, and the lovers with whom they cavor t, I now turn to continue examination of the discourse on proper social discipline th rough strict confinemen t of women in the fifteenth century.
33 Chapter Two: Windows of Opportunity in Boccaccios Decameron15 Since it was first circulated in the la tter half of the four teenth century, the Decameron has undergone continual analysis and re-evaluation and has been examined under numerous critical lenses. Across the gr eat gulf separating th e fourteenth-century world and our own, Boccaccio seems to taunt new generations of readers with his inscrutable narrative tone, cap ricious themes, and obscure meaning, delighting in the ability of his singularly famous work, a wo rk intended (so he claims) for pleasant distraction, to confound any collective understanding.16 In response to his elusive 15 All quotations are from the Decameron Oxford Critical Edition, translated by Guido Waldman. 16 Critical interest in the Decameron began in Boccaccios own time where he discussed the merits of his work with fellow poet and mentor Petrarca and extant records of these letters serve for fascinating and valuable information. Shortly thereafter, in the late fo urteenth and early fifteenth centuries, interest in his writing continued with the works of contemporary bi ographers such as Filippo Villani, Giannozzo Manetti and Ludovico Dolce, but it wasnt until the nineteen th century that serious critical scholarship was dedicated to Boccaccios work. Wr iting in 1826, Ugo Foscolo was amongst the first to examine Boccaccios work apart from its rhet orical accomplishments, urging hi storical analysis along with a championing of Tuscan literary style. Fran cesco De Sanctis (1871) interprets the Decameron as the antithesis of the strict doctrine of the clerical teaching of the Middl e Ages, emphasizing the importance of human pleasure without moral consequence. As such De Sanctis interprets the cu lture in which Boccaccios writes as responding to early mystical culture and thus should not be read for moral or religious meaning. Charles S. Singleton (1944) reads the Decameron as nothing more than escapist literature. Alberto Moravia (1966) also rejects the concept of an overarching moral code as it would impede Boccaccios principle occupation with recounting human action. Vittore Branca (1973), like De Sanctis, recognizes the preoccupation with the worldly and human experience, but adds more specifically the centrality of the merchant class whose perspectives the stories a ssume. Aldo Scaglione (196 3) argues that Boccaccio supported social institutions only where they comple ment natural order, and where scenery within the cornice is symbolic of morality. Thomas Bergins (1975) survey of the morality of the tales lauds the effort on behalf of the characters to maintain honest repu tations, thus honoring, rather than flouting social conventions of the time. Wayne Booth (1961) distinguishes various moral codes within the Decameron and hence Boccaccios use of literary strategy is necessa ry for guiding readers to proper interpretation. For Giuseppe Petronio (1957), the style of the Decameron assimilates communal culture with nostalgia for the earlier courtly tradition and is a trans itional work between medieval and Renaissance societies. Love is the central theme for Louise George Clubb (1960), Mark Musa (1977) and Peter Bondanella (1977), while scholars such as Tzvetan Todorov (1969) and Robert J. Clements (1972) believe that structure unifies the
34 masterpiece and the wealth of cr itical erudition dedicated to it, I endeavor to proffer yet another possible interpretation: an exam ination of the material world of the Decameron and its contribution to disc ourse on civic morality and fe minine conduct in fifteenthcentury Tuscany. While the Decameron may not offer historians an extrinsic moral program or didactic premise,17 intrinsically the stories are repl ete with material culture that communicates contemporary ideologies of conduc t. Equivocal as his moral tone may be, his material subjects communi cate directly, and when considered within the literary context, Boccaccio effects what David Rosa nd calls an arena of interpretation: a hermeneutic space whose boundaries are de fined by a complex of coordinates historical, cultural, critical, phenomenological a space filled with potential, latent with possibilities of meaning (52). Accordi ng to Rosand, we may better understand the nuances of Boccaccios style when we consider all prior elements of art and culture from which he may have borrowed. Boccaccios milieu of contemporary culture, which to my knowledge has been largely overlooked in cr itical scholarship until now, may allow for more complex interpretations. Alberto Moravi as interest in the background details and literary props during the 1960s led him to conclude that when seen through a magnifying glass... Boccaccios backgrounds, pl aces and notations become arcane and suggestive [and the text] gains depth, lucidity and mystery from those details that no tales. More recently Timothy Kircher (2001) compares the medieval tradition of exempla to the moral purpose of the first day of storytelling. 17 In the conclusion to the Decameron, Boccaccio recognizes both his read ers disposition toward certain ends and his own helplessness to determine with certai nty their responses: Now whether those stories, for what they are worth prove wholesome or noxious depends entirely on the hearer To the corrupt mind nothing is pure: and just as the corrupt derive no profit from virtuous conversation, so the virtuous cannot be corrupted by a touch of wantonness (Waldman 683-84).
35 amount of serious moral intention could give it (146). However, apart from his astute assertions, Moravias essays does little to promote critical analysis of the material culture and little scholarship has been dedicated to this purpose to date. In th e spirit of Moravias observations, my thesis endeavors to investig ate the motifs found in the stories which are in turn reflected in the tangible surroundings of the readers r eality. These quotidian pieces of the mercantile society communicate to readers with unmistakable immediacy, projecting from the pages of fiction onto th e walls and surroundings of the readers world. These spatial arenas filled with material symbolism are at the very heart, or shall I say hearth, of my interest. Boccaccios accommodation of contemporary society is especially pertinent since, in fourteenth-century Tuscany, th ere was a growing empha sis on personal reading and reflection rather than experiencing texts through the intermediaries of the educated elite and high priests. All of Boccaccios stylis tic choices reflect his intention to address a lay audience and champion individual interpre tation he choose to write in the vulgar tongue and in prose, publish the stories wi thout titles and couch them in a humble, unassuming style (Waldman 249). Additionally, he addresses an audience of idle ladies for the purpose of entertainment and obtai ning solace from heartache, rather than instruction, and he features ev eryday subjects rather than the heroic or divine. This outward show of humility effectively excuses his writing from the reproof of high society and censure of the learned elite and allo ws readers the freedom from the solicited responses expected of this high cult ure and moralizing treatises. Thus, the Decameron appeals not only to a broader demographic but also solicits a broader range of emotional responses than did earl ier secular literature.
36 To date, very little scholarship has id entifies fifteenth-cent ury discourses that take place between advice manuals and Boccaccios bawdy tales. Boccaccios Decameron was considered to be disruptive of the established moral system, yet it received popular acclaim and was widely circul ated in the wake of the printing press. The differences between these oppositional para digms brought tension between prescriptive behavior and changing cultural attitudes. Boccac cio was perceptive in that he could sense the societys readiness for change and was able to appeal to his a udience by giving them an alternative mode for social order and human conduct. There is much more to be said about how this paradoxical l iterature affected existing ideologies about women, both womens own conceptions of feminine iden tity and those instituted by men. Before I begin, I want to recognize a few scholars w ho have undertaken scholarship which bears significant relevancy to my thesis and whose work has influenced my own. Beginning in the fourteenth century, letters written between Boccaccio and Petrarca reveal contemporary anxieties about the gravity and reception of the Decameron In his maturity, Boccaccio felt a change of h eart as he adopted opinions more akin to those expressed by the learned e lite against his work at the time it was written. In a bout of shame, doubting the integrity of his most famous work, he even considered burning the original manuscript and might have followed through had not Petrarca his trusted friend and mentor, dissuaded him from destroying his novelle (Bergin 170). 18 In his response, Petrarca does not pretend that all of Boccaccios writing is nobl e and, in fact, excuses any 18 Some scholars may view Boccaccios threats as rhet orical, yet Bergin, lectur ing in 1975, believes so strongly in Boccaccios later transforma tion that he concludes that the Decamerons lascivious pages would have never been written had he [Boccaccio] me t Petrarca a little sooner (B ergin 158). Surely his letter to Petrarca in 1362 reflects some genuine anxiety a bout the lewd nature of his work as he consults his trusted friend on whether or not he should heed the warnings of a prophetic monk, Pietro of Siena, who urges him to repent his profane warnings in the name of God (Musa and Bondanella 173).
37 lapses in good judgment as effects of ill-inf ormed youth. However, the high merits of one story in particular, the Gris elda story, was so affecting that it elevated the whole collection of tales to a status deserving of praise and merit. It is significant that the one story Petrarca felt worthy of translation into Latin transl ation, thus conferring on it an elevated status, tells of tremendous feminine virtue: Griseldas character is a gross exaggeration of prevailing feminine ideals wh ere she faithfully performs wifely devotion, patience, humility and chastity, to such an extreme that today she might be considered a masochist.19 While certainly many elements of the story appealed to Petrarca, the extent to which the theme of womanly exempla, a popular theme within the learned compendia, played a part in earning praise for this singular tale above all the others, begs consideration. More recently, several nineteenthand twen tieth-century scholars, far too many to survey in detail here, have perused the pages of the Decameron in search of a unifying moral premise.20 For now, it seems that scholars are content with the conclusion that while each story varies in its particul ar tone and purpose, certain overarching generalizations unify all hundred tales. In this thesis I combine the methods of three very different scholars Aldo Scaglione, Vittore Branca, and Pamela Benson who have each made tremendous contributions to the critic al analysis of Boccaccios work, and whose conclusions serve as the f oundations of this thesis. 19 Similarly, many contemporary scholars ascribe so cial commentary and didac tic program only to the stories of day ten wherein the tale of Griselda is told. Bergin, Musa, and Bondanalla all conclude that the stories of the tenth day were aimed at indoctrination, wherein the meaning of the entire work culminates on this final day of storytelling. 20 This inclination to do so is understandable considering that an absence of moral didacticism would have indeed seemed unusual during this time where the genre of exemplary literature was widely popular and ideals of civic humanism were spreading.
38 Scaglione, the earliest of these three schol ars, argues in his article, Nature in Love in Boccaccios Decameron , for a relationship betw een place and morals in the Decameron with an analysis of the change of sc enery in the cornice, the world of the bella brigata or band of storytellers. For Scaglione, the bella brigatas move from plague-ridden city, to the sanctuary of the c hurch, and then finally to the morally neutral gardens of the Tuscan villas serves as a meta phor for a mediating naturalistic order which he supports. The villas in which these narratives take place are a naturalistic compromise between the bustling, over-populated (when not infected with the plague) atmosphere of the city, and the bucolic, wild lifestyle in the open nature. The splendid gardens, wherein much of the storytelling takes place, are by de finition cultivated nature; they are neither overgrown nor rampant, nor are they artificial or synthetic. Like the brigata who are organic intermediaries between the styles of medieval and Re naissance courtly traditions, the villas and gardens complement the naturalistic theme of the Decameron Scagliones very interesting association of place, mo ral and natural tendency, however, does not extend to an examination to the population w ithin the stories as they move about from home to church, from city to city, by land, sea, horseback, or foot, from enclosure to open-air, from private to public Following the lead of Scaglione, I will probe the tales themselves in search of windows and other openings that are symbolic of fifteenthcentury ideologies of moral and immoral domestic space. Vittore Branca, preoccupied more with cultural than with moral meaning, deems Boccaccio the patron author of the It alian merchant class. In his book, Boccaccio: The Man and His Works, Branca determines that not only is the merchant class better represented than bourgeoisie a nd nobility, but the stories in which me rchants are central
39 are some of the most poignant and memorabl e of hundred tales. The focus given to the merchant class in the Decameron is indicative of the hist orical importance of the merchant class for the Commune of Florence. According to Branca, mercantile society informs Tuscan culture through exposure to distant traditions and cultivation of a widespread passion for personal succe ss, thus, with the writing of the Decameron the quotidian adventure tales were born. Pamela Bensons The Invention of the Renaissance Woman important to my studies because of her feminist method of inquiry, examines the presentation of women in Boccaccios much later work, De Mulieribus Claris. Her book argues that Boccaccio employs a profeminist tone, inventing wo men not in the modern sense, but as a reuse of a woman who has always existed, but adapted for the time and place (2). She demonstrates Boccaccios assimilation of me dieval mores through modern devices and moral implications of space: The physical da ngers of wild places [of the epic classics and medieval romances] are equivalent to the moral dangers of the so cial interaction of Boccaccios time (24). For Benson, Boccacci os new woman exhibits a willing conformity to feminine ideals as opposed to the enforced obedience of the traditionally inferior woman, and this shift, she argues, is evidenced in the change of setting from the heroic and romantic traditions of the past to the social context of the present. For example, the ancient fields, forests, and ba ttlefields which were once the arenas where women fought against evil, become the early modern churches, theaters and households where contemporary Italian women must fight for virtue (24). While Scaglione lent to the moral place of the cornice, Branca contributed to the merchant class perspective of the Decameron and Benson defined the womens image in
40 De Claris Mulieribus, I hope to contribute to the womens perspect ive within the tales and fourth day prologue of the Decameron I am in search of the reinvented woman in the heyday of Boccaccios naturalistic mercantile so ciety, unconcerned with the criteria of the learned compendia. Where we have alrea dy explored fourteenth-century Italy on the ship decks and saddlebacks of the adventurous merchants, I now wish to contemplate the life as women saw it, or rather didnt see it, through their household windows. Boccaccios treatment of the private-public divi de and the practice of strict confinement of women as part of his litera ry illustration of material cult ure, is central and unique to my thesis. As I have demonstrated in the previous chapter, there exists a tortuous list of restrictions defining where th e fifteenth-century Italian wo man could or could not go. There are the places outside of the home where under no circ umstances a lady should venture: taverns, universiti es, centers of public discour se, government, law courts, battlefields, and the centers in town of ill-repute. There are places where she can go conditionally, such as the market accompani ed by a chaperone or to church dressed according to sumptuary laws. There are pla ces which always arouse serious concern, dances, concerts and festivals or anywhere alone at night. Womens life-cycle determine their freedom to venture into the public: pre gnant women are told th at the crude sights that accompany busy squares may harm or disfigure their children, and widowed women are supposed disgraceful if they venture into public often. In general, almost any place outside of the home is excluded to the patricia n lady, but the same is said of places within the home where there are limits to where women could venture: the studiolo the courtyard during business hours and in some cases the servants quarters are restricted to
41 the ladies of the house. Finally, there are th e places within the home which defy easy categorization, like the household windows and ba lconies, very literal openings to the physical barriers that separate one space from another, which were not as clearly morally delineated and thus are feature prominently in prescriptive an d popular literature. Fifteenth-century conduct manuals reveal the fear and suspicion with which Italian patriarchs viewed wi ndows and balconies, but is th ere evidence of these same convictions in Boccaccios Decameron ? How does he stimulate discussion on the confinement of women and the trespassing of this simultaneously real and moral boundary? With the presentation of these ambi guous moral contexts, Boccaccio confronts these social conditions without bias, allowing fair and equa l assessment of the social consequences. However, before inviting discussion about social mores Boccaccio must first reach all of society, including th e ladies, his intended audience, despite the fact that many sought to interdict the tales accessibility to women. Literatu re, a kind of window to the imagination, was prohibited along the same grounds that actual windows were: each provided access to worlds outside the home. Manual writers attacked bawdy fiction, the Decameron in particular, fearing that these works would incite womens lust and encourage indecorous behavior. Attacking th e genre of popular literature as a whole, many conduct manuals began to proscribe lite rature thought to be inappropriate for the lady, effectively producing an early form of the banned book list. During the fifteenth century, with the advent of the printing pre ss, it was common for prescriptive authors to make general warnings about ladies access to popular literature, but by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when specifi c authors and titles were named, the Decameron,
42 despite its now centuries-old publication, was fre quently included at the top of these lists. One such eighteenth-century scholar, Juan Lu is Vives, one of the most widely-read and respected authors on the subject of women s education in Europe, deemed Boccaccio, and other such secular writers, as otiose, lazy, [and] without humanity, given to vices and deceit (King 165). Bergin traces these sentiments all the way into the late nineteenth century: The Decameron was considered by many to be a dirty book and was read rather furtively by all save the emancipated as recently as a generati on ago (Bergin 170). Even before the completion of his work, Boccaccio was well aware of the negative reactions to his novelle and felt compelled to defend himself against his detractors. Before having finished even a third of his labor, Boccaccio breaks with the narrative flow in order to deliver a defense in an impassioned prologue to the fourth day of storytelling. Therein, he addresses the ons laught of taunts and pinpricks from those who have savagely buffeted [him] by th e stormwinds... torn [him] up by the roots (Waldman 249). No doubt, even in these earl y stages, the public felt uneasy about the nature of Boccaccios stories in his radical human comedy21 and his contemporaries reacted fervently. In order to demonstrate the folly of hi s attackers, Boccaccio recounts the tale of Filippo, an overcautious father whose paren ting methods are proven ineffectual against natures power. At the outset of the tale, we learn that Filippo is heartbroken because of the early and unexpected death of his wife In hopes of preventing his young son from experiencing the pain that accompanies life am idst society, Filippo hel d his child to this 21 Francesco De Sanctis presents The Decameron as piece of hallmark literature that ushered in a new nationalistic sentiment. His article, Boccaccio and th e Human Comedy describes this revolutionary new interest in human experience and wo rldly affairs over preoccupation with the afterlife, exemplified in the highly successful work of Dantes Divine Comedy
43 life [of solitude and religious de votion] for many a year, never letting him out of the cell, never permitting him the sight of any but hi mself (Waldman 251). In the few short passages that follow, Boccaccio goes on to de scribe the sons maturation and resultant curiosity that leads to his firs t experience of society: the sigh ting of the city of Florence, its architecture, the townspeople, and esp ecially, his natural affections for women. Filippo, worried by his sons attraction to wome n, hopes to delude him by telling him that the name given to women, these never-before-seen, yet captivating creatures, is goslings and advises him to guard himself against them, urging his son to keep his eyes down my boy dont look at them they re no good at all (Waldman 251). It is here, amidst the hustle and bustle of the cit y, where Filippo recognizes that for the first time his son is indisposed to his fatherly c ounsel. His last words re veal his regret at having allowed his son to accompany him to Flor ence, an utter feeling of dejection made all the more heartrending, because, as Boccacci o stops the story short in this moment, Filippo will forever remain in this state of despair. In the opening lines of the defense, just before he begins to tell the story of Filippo, Boccaccio excuses the unfinished tale be cause, in his own words, far be it from me to presume to incorporate any story of mi ne into those of a company as excellent as the one I have described to you [his male detractors] (Waldman 250). However, his sardonic tone throughout the proem indicates that his reasons for not disclosing the ending are other than those he claims. One can sense, in these brief passages, a metaphor for what many contemporary scholars beli eve to be the universal meaning of the Decameron: a focus on the temporal world rather than fixation with the heavenly. Just as Wayne Booth affirms that Boccaccios artistry lies not in adherence to any one supreme
44 manner of narration, but rather in his ability to order various forms of telling in the service of various forms of showing (M usa and Bondanella 249), with this proem Boccaccio is prepared to show the struggle between a boys natural feelings for women and those forces trying to repress th em, as he is later prepared to tell us that to defy the laws of Nature requires no little strength a nd those who try will often do so not merely to purpose but even to their own severe detrim ent (Waldman 255). In order to press his message to his readers, Boccaccio first prefaces his didactic declarat ion with a fictional narrative which serves as an example, and proof, of this declaration. In addition to the system of telling a nd showing which he employs to deliver this diatribe and underscore the folly of stubborn, straight-laced pendants, Boccaccio introduces comedic elements that instruct. Boccaccios lasting humor provides his tales with a vitality and spirit admired and beloved as much today as it was for contemporaries. Far be it for Boccaccio to deny an opportunity fo r humor even as he issues an invective against his adversaries; in fact, it is the co medic element telling his son that women are called goslings where the stubborn feel the tinge of irony as a resu lt of their inability to curb natural human appetites. Filippo hope s to repress his son s natural fondness for women, but soon learns it is futile to wage war agains t natural human tendencies. Through explicit, implicit, and comedic m eans, Filippos tale functions as a metaphorical scenario for which his detractors may determine a moral. This technique, the literary equivalent to th e popular motif used in painting where the interlocutor invites the audience into the scene through the outward gaze, or nod to the audience, allows his readers to judge the s cenario objectively, and by extension, deduce that their
45 situations, in that they ar e much like Filippos, are similarly misguided and doomed for failure. More importantly, while Boccaccio pretends to leave the story completely in the hands of his audience to interpret as they will, in fact, he does provide very clear indications as to what their conclusions should be. In the final line of the embedded narrative, Boccaccio reveals th at Filippo comes to a hear tfelt understanding: And it dawned on him that his providence was no match for Mother Nature (Waldman 252). Boccaccio hopes that Filippos own resolution wi ll solicit similar ones from his readers, and through non-abrasive suggestion remember that Filippo is a character expressing himself within narrative embedded within hi s prologue and does not necessarily express the authors views an inculpable fictiona l character may serve as his mouthpiece and provide moral instruction. With Filippos humbling conclusions, and Boccaccios own methods of telling and showing, the lesson to be taken from this story is forcefully implied, and certainly his contemporaries w ould have also recognized the sarcastic quality to his opening remark that the story s very incompleteness will bear sufficient witness that it has noth ing to do with theirs [the storie s of his attacker s] (Waldman 250). Tzvetan Todorovs method of structural analysis may provide us with yet one more clue as to how Boccaccio sought to influence his audiences conclusions. In his article, Structural Analysis of a Narrativ e, Todorov explains th at all plots progress according to the law of equilibrium where the author must affect an imbalance of order and then create a means for its restoration. This structure is punctuated as follows: X violates the law Y must punish X X tries to avoid being punished Y violates the law OR Y believes that X hasnt violated the law Y does not punish X. When applied
46 to our story, Filippos son is represented by X and Filippo with Y. The law which the son violates initially is his fathers which requires that he submit to an ascetic lifestyle and reject all worldly affair s. In this case viola tes is a bit harsh be cause Filippo permits his son to accompany him into the city, so in fact both characters violate the law which Filippo himself enacted. Filippo, then, is fo rced to punish his sons curiosity by dissembling the truth about the nature of wome n and insisting that he keep his distance. His son attempts to avoid this punishment w ith pleas that he be allowed to take a gosling home with him to keep. As the st ory ends short, we ca nnot assign the next episodes to fit Todorovs plot structure, however, this point of departure aligns with Todorovs model at a critical moment. Accord ing to Todorov, the next episode in the plot, if it were to continue, would have one of two possible outcomes, the only time in the structural sequence where Todorov notes diverg ing outcomes: either X violates the law OR Y believes that X has not violated the law. So, we know that either Filippo will then violate or retract his law of seclusion and join a life amidst a society along with his son, OR his son will continue to placate his father by pretending to avow again, to a hermetic existence, meanwhile finding ways to visit the city and its ladies be hind his fathers back. As stated earlier, this moment is criti cal because Boccaccios plot has ended here precisely where there is a decision to be made, each with its own implications about social order, and only the audience may conc lude the story for themselves, as Boccaccio has refused to do so. Either path ultimately yields the same result according to Todorov, Xs exoneration; Filippo will not punish his son for his transgression and the order of equilibrium (in this case life amidst societ y) is restored. Cent uries before Todorovs article, perhaps Boccaccio understood, eith er consciously or subconsciously, this
47 formulaic and universal plot structure and relied on the audience to make conclusions accordingly. Within a few carefully considered page s, Boccaccio both provides a parable about the futility of parents unnatural expectati ons for their childrens conduct and fulfills his more overt aim to defend his freer style of writing, which he argues is only answerable to the laws of nature. This prologue was a necessary component of the Decameron, wherein Boccaccio feels it is important to inform his readers of the manner in which they are intended: that they be considered as a realis tic portrait of the vari ed and individual human behaviors that naturally o ccur within society. Fifteenth-century patriarchs would recognize their own likenesses in Boccaccios portrait of Filippo. As discussed in the previous chapter, it was advisable that fa thers take strict measures with their young, marriageable daughters, restricting their free doms and confining them to their bedrooms with little access to the public scen e. Like many fifteenth-century Italian paterfamilias Filippo too believes that to a void potential ruin, he must confine his child to the home where he will be closely monitored and the order of the household maintained. Filippos story is important for my thesis because it is the first of the tales to address the matter of patriarchal confinement of those subordinate to him as a form of protection against lust and sexua l promiscuity. In the two storie s that follow, that of Lizio and Caterina (V.4), and Sismonda and Arriguc cio, (VII.8), Boccaccio returns to the more traditional theme of mans control over women, in the former, that of a father over a daughter, and in the latter, of husband over wife. In both stories, the mens control over their women is challenged by the natural will of these women. Rather than an interest in the paternal concern for a sons emotional we llbeing, as was the case in Filippos story,
48 these stories address fears that manifest themselves in the need to regulate the female body, womans sexuality and chast ity, a practice that is furthe r complicated at the private spaces of home which allow for public access. I will first examine Philostratos tale on day five of the Decameron, in which we meet Lizio da Valbona, a knight from Ro magna, his wife, and beautiful daughter Caterina. Within the very first lines of the tale, Philostrato assure s his audience of the worthiness of Lizios family, piquing our intere st in their success th rough the description of their diligence and attentiveness accorded to Caterinas upbringing.22 Philostrato tells us that Caterina is very carefully minded and well-bred, and that inde ed she is the apple of her parents eye: her father and mother spared no efforts in bringing her up, with a view to making a splendid match for her (Waldman 340). Although we know little else about Caterina, it is enough to know that sh e is beautiful and ch aste, and therefore, desirable for marriage. Like most Italian wo men during the fifteenth century, Caterinas worth depends on her ability to attract a proper husband and to honor both households through the prosperous union of two prominen t families. As parents of a young daughter, it is Lizio and Giacominas res ponsibility to ensure that she is well-bred for just such a marriage. Having established the positions of the protagonists and prompted our desire for their success, Ricciardo, a young and handsome friend of Lizios, enters the scene as if on cue. The abrupt introduction of his character signifies Ricciardos potential to interrupt the ordered family dynamic. Moreover, he appeal s to readers romantic sentiments, as we 22 Wayne Booth argues this is a necessary element of the novella, where in order for readers to derive pleasure in the comic outcome of our heroes, the main characters must be established with great precision (Musa and Bondanella 245). Similarly, Alberto Mo ravia recognizes Boccaccios penchant for terse character introductions, claiming th at as a man of action, Boccaccio hurries through the psychologies and emotions of the characters so as to allow for the action to dominate the rest of the plot.
49 are told he is young, handsome, and available. From our privileged position as readers we are privy to the latent and de structive qualities of having Ri cciardo as close friend to the family. Lizio and his wife, on the other hand, are oblivious to all the warning signs, and are described as being as much at ease with him [Ricciardo] as if he had been their own son (Waldman 340). As a result they become more lenient with Caterina, and soon the young couple falls in love. Their brief, innocen t meetings in the beginning allow for the arrangement of their secret love affair. Recal ling her parents usual vigilance, Caterina cautions Ricciardo, look at the way they keep their eye on me: I r eally cant see how you can do it [meet with me in private] (341). As the mouthpiece of all Italian daughters, the unfortunate victims of unjust surveillance in the name of family honor and reputation, Caterinas statement reflects a common state of affairs in fifteenth-century households. Happily, Caterina and Ricci ardo find recourse to a lo w-risk meeting place, a middle-ground that is both within the boundaries of the home, and accessible to Ricciardo from the outside: the balcony off Lizios bedr oom. Caterina convinc es her parents that because the hot summer months have prevente d her from sleeping at night, she should be able to sleep outside where the cool breeze wi ll pacify her to sleep. Braving the difficult climb, Ricciardo comes to Caterina that evening on the balco ny where the young couple takes every advantage of their time togeth er, making love into the early morning hours.23 However, the clandestine affair is short-live d. Exhausted from the nights activities, the young couple oversleeps and Lizio discovers th e two still lying together in a naked embrace the following morning. 23 Boccaccios euphemism going after nightingales, in pl ace of the more direct references to sex, add another comic element to the tale.
50 If we refer back to Philostratos introducti on as he prepares to tell the story to the brigata we recall that he referred to this mome nt as the only touch of misadventure a few sighs, a moments panic tinged with sh ame, but [the story] has a happy ending (Waldman 340). Certainly, this instant, wh ere a father had found that his daughter recklessly squandered her most valuable asse t, her chastity, woul d spell one of grave circumstance, tinged with shame, for many contemporaries. Caterinas virginity has been lost, her reputation tarn ished, and the prospects for a respectable marriage are now grim. Luckily for Lizios family, they are ab le to easily remedy the situation with the marriage of Caterina to Ricciardo, so that th eir shameful act is mitigated through proper and legal union. Lizio's crisis is averted with relative ease. However, first in fifteenthcentury mentalities is the realiz ation that external factors ma y not have allowed for such a quick and easy solution. Had the affair been an adulterous one, or one across feuding families or social stations, marriage may not have been a preferable or even a possible option. Again, if we apply Todorovs structure here, we find that the point where the X violates the law occurs on the balcony, where the law of Caterinas chastity is violated. Up to this point the tale took place totally within the confines of the home and Caterina had retained her virginity. Philo stratos tale, enhanced with comedy and clever wordplay, in essence provides a very realistic scenario to which many Italian families in the Quattrocento would relate. Whether readers c oncluded that the lesson from the story be that parents should be increasingly wary of th eir daughters freedoms, or that daughters, no matter how much their parents guard their freedoms, will find ways to break the laws that restrict them, Boccaccio does not make clear. (This is a variation on Todorovs
51 allowance for multiple outcomes, here dependent on the way in which readers interpret the moral). What is clear is that these am biguous outdoor-indoor spaces lie at the crux of either conclusion. On the one hand, they enable transgression of the boundaries established within the home, and on the othe r hand they release wo men from the bonds of total enclosure. Should the balcony then be reinforced as an el ement belonging to the public sphere and thus off-limits for women, or does it invariably belong to the home of which women are a part, and thus society must consider integrati ng public presence into the daily lives of women? As we consider th ese questions, lets turn to another story in which Boccaccio recognizes the problems of socially ambiguous moral spaces. In the eighth story of day seven, for whic h the theme of the day is stories that recount the tricks women have played on th eir husbands, whether in the pursuit of their amours or to protect themselves, and whether or not they have been found out (Waldman 417), Neiphile relates the story of Florentine Arrigucci o Berlinghieri and his wife Sismonda. Immediately the narrator ea rns the audiences favor for Sismonda, as Booth informs us he must, by describing a num ber of social taboos of which Arriguccio is guilty. Neiphile describes Arriguccio as a merchant of enormous wealth who had the absurd notion of marrying above his stati on even today its a thing merchants are always doing. He made a wholly unsu itable match with a young gentlewoman, Sismonda (Waldman 451). Moreover, he is so bu sy that he has become neglectful of his wife and his household. In a few short in troductory passages, Neiphile maligns Arriguccio and justifies whatever future action Sismonda will take against him. Reduced to loneliness, Sismonda soon finds a lover in a handsome local man, Ruberto. The lovers easily carry out an affa ir for some time, until finally, Arriguccio
52 suspects his wifes infidelity. He abruptly transforms himself from neglectful ignoramus to jealous husband, paying considerably more attention to his wifes conduct. However, the adulterers are too fond of one anothe r to easily quit their affair without first employing a little ingenuity. Recognizing the access that the window provides to the public realm, (Neiphile tells us that her wi ndow overlook[s] the street, and allows for frequent passersby), Sismonda c ontrives a plan that will al low the affair to continue undetected. Each night while she prepares fo r bed, Sismonda attaches a long string to her toe, routes it out the window and onto the stre et where it is in easy reach for Ruberto to pull when he wishes to see her. If the circumstances allow, Sismonda then invites Ruberto in for a night of lovemaking just a stones throw away from where Arriguccio sleeps soundly. Their devious plan is successful for some time, but finally, one night as he readies himself for bed, Arriguccio discovers the stri ng attached to his wifes toe. Driven by powerful suspicion, he unties the string from Sismondas toe, affixes it to his own, and anxiously awaits what will unfold next so, at last, he may dissolve his wifes treacherous ruse. Fatefully, Ruberto arrives that same evening to call on Sismonda unbeknownst to him that the wearer of the string on the ot her side was no longer his beloved and he proceeds to tug on the line as usual. Feeling the tug at his toe, Arriguccio, leaps out of bed, grabs his weapons, and pursues Ruberto through the city street s. Ruberto escapes unharmed, and because of the clamor in the middle of the night, the neighbors complain of Ariggucios recklessness, banishing him back to his hom e without having avenged his honor. Meanwhile, Sismonda has already prepar ed for her husbands impending wrath by arranging to switch place s with her maidservant. She convi nces her maid to lie in her
53 place in the nuptial chamber a nd to suffer her husbands harsh beating upon his return. After Arriguccio metes out the cruel punishment against his wife in what is one of the most violent scenes of the hundred tales, he then proceeds to Sismondas natal home to report the awful sins she has committed ag ainst him. Sismonda again uses this opportunity to trade places with her maid so that upon Arriguccios return with her brothers, she appears calm and collected, pretending to have been engaged in a long night of chores. As Arriguccio cannot reconcile Si smondas unharmed condition with the brutal beating he has just described, Sismondas family judges that he has fa bricated the account of his wifes disloyalty in a bout of drunke n insanity. In the end, Sismonda gets away with her perfidy and the story ends poorly for Arriguccio who is publicly shamed and deemed incapable of disciplining his wife. Neiphiles story met the criteria of the da ys stories that the tales recount tricks that women play on their husbands yet to de termine any moral agenda is problematic; a womans clever trickery hardly merits he r induction into the a ssembly of feminine exempla. While we admire Sismonda for her cunning, quick wit and daring to do as she pleases, her utter disregard for womanly vi rtues certainly tarnishes her reputation.24 Her status as heroine of the story is credible only because she is surrounded by even poorer company. In other words, by default she earns the title of the best amidst all the evil because she gets away with her misdeeds. As we assess the crimes of our motley crew of sinners, we have Sismonda, the adulteress who scapegoats her maid and lies to her family, who comes out on top; Ruberto, who sleeps with another mans wife and then challenges him to a duel in the street; Arri guccio who is a neglect ful and jealous husband, 24 Boccaccio applies a similar strategy in his cataloging of women in De Claris Mulieribus where he praises those women most highly where they are chaste as well as meritorious in other aspects, and reduces those women who lack this quality to a lesser degree of virtue.
54 who brings misfortune upon hi mself for marrying above his st ation; and finally the poor beaten maid, who, through virtue of her obe dience and suffering, earns our sympathies, but her low station provides he r with no recourse to autonomy in the hierarchical system; thus, she becomes a momentary and opportune helpmeet for her lady who works to restore herself at the top of the social structure. It is certainly tempting to try to read possible moral agendas into the story, as many scholars have attempted to do with Boccac cios tales, yet, we know that separate conclusions will be made, discrepancies of which Boccaccio was fully aware. The precariousness of its reception is made all the more so as there are several social and marital problems addressed here for the audi ences reflection: initially, there is the problem of his social climbing; her ennui that stems from ma rriage for reasons other than love, eventually causing her c oncupiscence for another; his inability to control his wifes behavior; his uninhibited jealou sy; her deceit and impunity; and finally his relinquishing power over to his wife in the end. If we appl y Todorov here, as with Caterina, the law is violated with the help of the window. The window facilitates the br eaking of marital bonds and the resultant deviant behavior All the emotional, psychological and ideological problems which comprise the myri ad of issues for these characters can be reduced to this one significant, material pl ace, where action prevails. If his readers can identify what the window permits, inhib its, and signifies fo r both Sismonda and Arriguccio, then they can apply this meaning to the government of contemporary society. At the heart of all three of these ta les, Boccaccio is concerned with the means through which patriarchs constrict, both ideologically and physically, subordinate members of the household and limit their m ovement through confinement to domestic
55 space. That he returns to this theme throughout the novelle presenting it through several different familial relationships, suggests that strict confinement is a common practice amidst fifteenth-century Italian households a practice which is the consequence of various social concerns. The window-balc ony motif provided a ta ngible, convenient, although at the same time realistically probl ematic, element through which to consider the justness of confining women to a wholly private existence, removed from contact with life outside the household walls and deni ed even the sight of the public sphere. While Boccaccios contentious tales may not yi eld enough concrete evidence as to which side of the public-private pa rtition he stood on this matter, hi s ability to delineate these ambiguous and luminal realms as the source of both stern reservation and the potential for liberation, shows his willingness to proffe r this space as one worthy of more careful consideration. Are the conduct manual writer s wrong to refuse these spaces to womens use? Perhaps the confinement of women is c ounterintuitive, only causing women to feel a stronger need to rebel, and hence enforces th e self-fulfilling nature of womens captivity? If women were given the same freedoms as men, are they capable of maintaining their chastity? The answers to these questions, which Boccaccio may have considered himself as he wrote the Decameron for the enjoyment and pleasure of idle ladies, may become clearer as we examine one further source that was highly aware of the problematic nature of open spaces in the home, the Italian pa intings of Sandro Botti celli and Fra Filippo Lippi which employ windows motifs in their secular portraits.
56 Chapter Three: La Finestra : A New Convention for Portraiture In the previous chapter, I have show n that Boccaccio offered an alternative reading to the didacticism and heavy-handed advice of fifteenth-century conduct manuals. In this chapter I will demonstrate, with the survey of portraiture that visual art also participates in this discourse of social discipline through the strict confinement of women. Through examination of the portraits of Fra Filippo Lippi a nd Sandro Botticelli which give credence to the spatial metaphor of the window, we may better understand the extent to which womens movements were contai ned in an effort to regulate their sexual conduct. Thus far, I have argued that the prevalence of the window motif in both moralizing treatises and popular fi ction supports the idea that th ere exists a ve ry real fear that windows could provide an outlet for wome ns insubordination. Within this chapter, I argue that this theme persists in the visual art as well. When understood within th e precepts described in the conduct manuals, two seemingly traditional Florentine portraits of women disclose the same concern for womens transgressions made possible because women were allowed to frequent their household windows. The two portraits I will examine here, the first by Lippi, Woman with a Man at a Window (Fig. 1), and the second by Andrea Botticelli, Woman at a Window (Fig. 2), were both painted during the latter half of the fifteenth century, commensurate with one of the most fruitful years in Florentine pr inting, when moralizing
57 treatises began to circulate more widely.25 Both Lippi and Botticelli abandon the standard conventions of female portra iture, allowing the window motif to add moral dimension to a genre typically understood for the purposes of boasting wealth, beauty and nobility in the present and recording likenesses for posterity. Both Lippi and Botticelli have already received scholarly attention for the beauty and technical ingenuity of their work. Lippis Woman with Man at a Window (Fig. 1) is an important artifact for art historians b ecause it achieved many firsts for the genre of portraiture. Despite disagreement for the dating of this portrait,26 Women with a Man at a Window is one of the earliest surviving Italian portraits to feature a woman, as well as it is the first independent Florentine portrait to survive to date. Furthermore, according to Jeffrey Ruda, a seminal scholar on the life and work of Lippi, it is the earliest surviving Italian portrait to include a b ackground, either scenic or lands cape. Finally, this portrait is undisputedly recognized as the earliest su rviving double portrait including both man and woman.27 For historians of material culture, Woman with a Man is a treasure trove and visual feast in sumptuary display and c ontemporary fashions of the Florentine Quattrocento. Despite these notable accomplishmen ts, Lippis painting has received little 25 For more information regarding the printing business during the fifteenth century, see Library of Congress. The Florentine Fior di Virtu of 1491. Trans. Nicholas Fersin. United States: Library of Congress, 1953. 26 Jeffrey Ruda writing in 1999, dates this portrait much earlier than some of his colleagues in the time frame of 1435-37. David Alan Brown, curator of Rena issance art at the National Gallery dates the portrait in 1438. 27 See Pope-Hennessy Secular Painting in 15th-Century Tuscany: Birth Trays, Cassone Panels, and PortraitsMost paintings in this time were conceived as diptychs or pendants and are painted on separate panels. It is the first double portrait and one of the earliest European portraits with a domestic setting. pp. 61.
58 Figure 1. Fra Filippo Lippi. Woman with a Man at a Window, c.1438. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston. Source: David Alan Brown, Virtue and Beauty, page 107
59 Figure 2. Sandro Botticelli. Woman at a Window, c.1470. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Source: David Alan Brown, Virtue and Beauty, page 173.
60 critical attention until just recently and much of this scholarship ha s been undertaken by German scholars, currently without E nglish translations of their work. 28 Similarly, Botticellis Woman at a Window (Fig. 2) is a revolutionary Quattrocento portrait, yet it is seldom studied for its realistic and historical merit. Woman at a Window is amongst the first paintings to depict a woman in three-quarter length and frontal view, two characteristic s rarely seen in female portraiture during this time. This very early work, only recently attributed to Botticelli, is dated in the early 1470s. As a young painter, Botticelli had not yet fully deve loped his individual st yle that would later earn him fame; in the retinue of his many great works, this one has gone relatively unnoticed by scholars and art critics alike.29 Because these works have not been e xplored within the discourse of the contemporary conduct manuals, a significant element of analysis is lacking. As I discussed in the first chapter, conduct manuals that circulated during this time heavily ostracized those women who regularly sp ent their time using their household windows for pleasure-seeking and idly passing tim e. Despite this stigma, both of these accomplished painters chose window scenes as the setting for their female patrons. Lippis Woman with a Man at a Window and Botticellis Woman at a Window are more interesting and complex when one understand s the weight with which the window was regarded as an acceptable meeting place for women, and these complications become more apparent as the conventions of portr aiture clash with th e rigor of the conduct manuals. 28 Ringbom, 1985, Filippo Lippis New Yorker Do bbelportrait: Eine Deutung der Fenstersymbolik Jansen, 1987-8, Fra Filippo Lippi's Doppelbildnis im New Yorker Metropolitan Museum. 29 Where I there has been interest in this painting, it is usually to debate the significance of the ladys guarnello, a transparent overdress thought to be worn by women during their pregnancy.
61 Both Lippis and Botticellis sitters are s hown within the domestic setting, as was traditional for womens portraiture, but have been provided an outlet, or escape into the world beyond the threshold of the home through their windows present in the frame. As Lauro Martines notes of cont emporary custom; [when] kept mostly indoors, girls and women of the comfortable clas ses must have regarded wi ndows as their eyes to the outside world (Martines 213). Both Lippis sitter, Angiola di Bernardo Sapiti and Botticellis sitter, Smerelda Brandini, are provided these eyes. Before we can attribute meaning to this given liberty, we must first engage in deeper analysis of each of these paintings. First, I will begin with descri ption and analysis of Lippis now well-known double portrait found in the Metropo litan Museum of Art. The s econd half of this chapter will focus on Botticellis work, attempting to note consistencies and discrepancies in the treatment of the window convention, before fina lly connecting this st udy of portraiture to my observations of the works in the previous chapters. In Filippo Lippis double portrait Women with a Man at a Window also known as Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement the lady, elaborately clad in French fineries of brilliant reds inlaid with preci ous stones and pearls, takes up the larger space of the frame. She is the paragon of beauty at a time when the beauty of women was a popular topic of discussion in Florence.30 Her blonde hair is ti ghtly pulled back under her magnificent sella or headdress, revealing her broa d forehead and pure white complexion. Her poise and restraint exhib its her noble upbringing and chaste demeanor. She folds her hands demurely at her waist, holds her head high and upright, and faces to the left of the 30 Discourses on womens beauty were widely popular during this time, and through the use of publications like Firenzuolas On the Beauty of Women, the detail and specificity with which womens facial features and deportment were discussed was widely circulated
62 picture frame, as was common in female portraiture.31 In addition to her beauty and poise, her attire and accessories are figural ad vertisements of her familys wealth, an important function of the portrait which modern scholars have thoroughly noted. Quattrocento Tuscany was rooted in a culture of display, where the raiment, decorum, property, and possessions all conf er the social status and honor of the family. The rich jewels and fine fabrics, along with the word LEALTA, meaning loyalty inscribed on the left cuff of her sleeve, all arti culate the nobility of Sapiti family. However, the extent to which this painting conforms to social c onventions ends here, with the formal and iconological details of the painting. Lippis c hoice of setting for this portrait is unique and revolutionary to the period. Although she is shown in profile, with eyes demurely cast away from the viewer, conforming to the traditional pose in portraiture at the time, Sa piti is positioned before an open doorway, a portal to the outside world a nd escape from the confines of the home.32 Captured in a moment of rest, it appears as if Sapiti contemplates passage through this open doorway. Outside the frame of the portrait, we can imagine the scenery just beyond the frames limits within Sapitis line of vision. Whereas in the case of Alessio Baldovinettis early 1400s Portrait of a Lady in Yellow (Fig. 3), or Paolo Uccellos 1460s painting, Young Lady of Fashion (Fig. 4), where all backgr ound details are completely absent, Lippi clearly includes the de tails of the window casing a nd the open expanse of 31 For more on the conventions of profile portraiture for women, see Tinagli, Women in Renaissance Art: Gender, Representation and Identity and Simons, Women in Frames: The Gaze, the Eye, the Profile in Renaissance Portraiture. 32 I assume that this doorway is open because of the light that shines on her hands and face suggesting the opening as a principle light source.
63 Figure 3. Alessio Baldovinetti, Portrait of a Lady in Yellow c.1445. National Gallery, London. Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alessio_Baldovinetti
64 Figure 4. Paolo Uccello. A Young Lady of Fashion, c.1460. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. Source: David Alan Brown, Virtue and Beauty, page 113.
65 scenery seen beyond the window in the b ackground. The suggestion of the scenery beyond provides Sapiti with a focus, making he r position here more natural than if she were shown in an ambiguous enclosure, pos itioned in a corner. She focuses her gaze outside through the open doorway, just as we focus our gaze on her through the frame of the painting. Sapiti is cognizant of the world beyond this small interior space, but at this moment she remains within the comfortable domestic interior repr esented here only by the warm, rich wood walls and ceiling. Lippi pl aces Sapiti in reach of, and aware of the outside world, but hesitant to show her as a part of it. I know of only one earlier individual portrait showing a woman poised in front of outdoor scenery, Pisanellos Ginevra dEste (Fig. 5) found at the Muse du Louvre in Paris, and even here the floral and greenery have been identified as tapest ry embossed with leaves and floral that emulates the Virgins hortus conclusus .33 Tapestries depicting flora and fauna, like Camera dei Pavoni or Peacock Room seen in the well preserved Davanzati palace of Florence, were common amongst fifteenth-century homes. This trend to bring the beauty of the outdoors in may, in part, result from the very little exposure women had to the outdoor, rural environment and, hence their desi re to have these s cenes recreated where they would daily experience them. However, the window in Lippis portrait is meant to represent a real window. Sapiti is turned away from this window, but the audience is given primary view, where the scene revealed shows a bustling town and waterway, symbols of commerce and government, exploration and conque st. Although Lippi paints just enough of this scene to 33 Woods-Marsden, Joanna. Portrait of the Lady, 1430-1520. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardos Ginevra de Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women. Ed. David Alan Brown. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001. 64-87.
66 Figure 5. Pisanello. Ginevra dEste c.1430. Muse du Louvre, Paris. Source: Lorne Campbell. Renaissance Portraits page 82.
67 provide us with a small glimpse of the lands cape seen through the window, the landmarks are symbolic so that we understand this as a patriarchal domain, a world in which Sapiti is not free to participate.34 Within this frame, she is aligned with the landscape, the household and the fineries. They are all displa yed together, oriented for one audience (a male audience), as collection of family wealth and possession. As I have described thus far, Sapiti is presented standing in a space where she faces an open doorway in front of her and wh ere there is an additional open window in the background to her right. There are two a dditional open spaces from which the lady is viewed, perhaps the two most important, so th at Sapiti stands within a space that pushes the limit of domestic/enclosed interior. The window, painted on the same wall as the doorway, allows for a second character, a man commonly regarded as either her suitor or husband, to be seen barely peeping into the homes interior, and as such, is the womans space. Brown, editor of Virtue and Beauty: Leonardos Ginevra de Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women, has noted that the ominous male figure, who peeps through the window in this portra it, is like many in a long line of intruder figures who are common in Lippis paintings (106). While the male certainly seems to encroach on the central space of the painting, to label him as an intruder, in any form of social sense rather than merely the spatial orientation he occupies within the pict ure plane, might ally this male figure with the cunning male seducers of the Decameron a connection, although tempting, I do not, nor do I think Br own, wishes to make. However, Browns observation is interesting as one of many with which modern scholars attempt to determine the occasion for which this unique double portrait was painted. The reason that 34 Pope-Hennessy suggests that the chapel and gardens shown in the background through the window may also record actual property of these prestigious families pp. 61.
68 Lippis portrait was commissioned still remains to be decided with certainty, but one detail not yet considered is the me taphorical meaning of the window. The intruding male figure marks his presen ce in this portrait by resting his folded hands on the window sill as he approaches fr om the outside. Underneath the mans hands, Lippi has painted a family coat of arms, a hi storically significant detail which has enabled scholars to identify the man as Lorenzo di Ra nieri Scolari. Simons, like most scholars, accepts the couple as Sapiti and Scolari, and suggests that this portrait commemorates Sapitis exchange ceremony in which the da ughter was transferred from her natal home to her husbands (Simons 43). Others have al so entertained the possibility that this portrait was painted some time after the marri age or upon the birth of the couples first son.35 Equipped with the knowledge of what conduct manuals communicated about womens relationship with windows, I agree with Simons that only at certain key moments could she be seen whether at a wi ndow or in the window of a panel painting, seen and thereby represented. These centered on her rite of passage from one male house to another upon her marriage (42). Simons reconciles the unconven tional setting for the portrait with the circumstances that may have allowed for a woman to be present at the window, facing a man found on the other side Furthermore, her elaborate dress, inscribed motto LEALTA on her sleeve, and headdress are all emblems used in the ceremony for which a woman could show revere nce to her new family. As the conduct manuals assert, it was inappropriate for a woman to be out unless accompanied by her 35 Brown, David Alan. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardos Ginevra de Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women. New Jersey: Princeton Un iversity Press, 2001.
69 husband. Knowing that the man is just on the ot her side of the wall to receive her assures the audience that she will be under constant supervision. The two figures, although they share the same setting, barely interact with one another. It is as if the two were painted separately, posed fo r this space at separate times and only afterwards superimposed with one an other in the final product. Simons says that the portrait genre has the ability to manipulate reality and create a finished product that represents values other than what wa s socially acceptable. In this fantasy realm woman can wear cosmetics and extravagan t decoration forbidden by legal and moral codes. There this orderly creatu re was visible at or near a window, yet she was explicitly banished from public appearance at such windows (45). Lippi understands paintings license to create unrealis tic scenes. He allows his female protagonist to overstep socially accepted boundaries of womans space, showing herself here, in a milieu of entrances and exits wherein she may be viewed from four different perspectives: the three open spaces within the painting, and of course, the frame itself which provides us with our view of the couple and the scene which unfolds before us. We see Sapiti in profile, but are not permitted to see any of the scenes which unfolds under her line of vision. The gaze of the woman is of lesser importance th an that of all who gaze upon her. What is beyond the doorway in front of her is left to our imagination. Had Lippi reversed the situation, grounding the scene outside, in Lore nzos space with Sapitis head barely peeping outside from within, an entirely diffe rent effect would have resulted, one making Sapiti the active agent of the portrait, intruding upon Scol aris space and making him the object of our gaze. This effect would have b een very radical of Lippi at this time, but even in this early Quattrocen to piece the use of the window motif shows the promise of
70 changing portrait conventions and the collapse of the separation between men and womens space. The background landscape, as seen thr ough the windows, most often appears in the portrait paintings of th e nobility, where the window scene was incorporated as an aesthetic element used by artists to displa y their skill in the art of landscape painting while at the same time adhering to the portr ait specifications comm issioned by the patron. A well-known example is Piero della Fr ancescas 1466 double portra it of the duke and duchess of Urbino (Fig. 6), which shows off the great expanse of land owned by these Italian elite and depicts the material fineries displayed in their costume and jewelry. Patron and artist had found a re alistic means for displaying both the public and personal wealth of the sitter without lo sing any of the aesthetic beau ty of the autonomous genres of landscape and portraiture, and has done so w ithin the small dimensions of the average Florentine portrait painting. Unlike Francescas portrait, Botticellis Woman at a Window is curious in that it employs the wi ndow motif for a wholly separate agenda outside of purposes for record and display. Expounding upon the techniques and conventions of his predecessor and mentor, Lippi and painting just a few decades later, Botticelli uses the wi ndow motif to render a scene like those related in the Decameron. Woman at a Window, accepted as having been painted sometime in the 1470s, is pain ted from the point of view of an outsider looking in on a lady as she stands perched at a window. The lady, ge nerally thought to be Smerelda Brandini, challenges the didactic prin ciples that forbid women to confront the world through bedroom windows. Contrary to learned advice on proper feminine conduct, Brandini holds the shutter open with her right hand while she boldly returns the
71 Figure 6. Piero della Francesca, Pendant Portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza c.1466. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Source: David Alan Brown. Virtue and Beauty, page 75.
72 gaze of her spectators who look at her from below. Her twinkling eyes, subdued smile, and the faint dimple which appears on her left cheek are subtle indications of her lively intellect and spirit which she attempts to conceal through stifled expression. Her thumb protrudes into the viewers space, transgress ing the physical barrier between her and the public. David Alan Brown, offering an explanat ion for Botticellis highly animated sitter, an anomaly during a time when restrained prof iles of women were common, affirms that there does not seem to have been any cha nge in status of women during this period rather he may have wished to overcome the limitations of the static profile in an attempt to convey the physical and psychological presence of the sitter (172). While Browns a ssertion explains Brandinis three-quarter pose and her active engagement with the audience, it does no t reconcile Botticellis decision to escape the spatial conventions of portr aiture to show a sitter pos itioned at a household window. As a perceptive and culturally conscious artis t who would have been aware of the stigma attached to windows as improper places for women, it was not arbitrary that Botticelli chose to include the window motif so centrally in this portrait. Such a radical departure from the restrictive portra it conventions advocated a similar breakdown of those contemporary social conditions wh ich limited womens movement. Whereas Lippi regarded the window as an element which provided a more complex scene for the actors to participate with one another, the window in Botticellis portrait is actually th e agent through which we are able to meet this woman face to face. Her thumb, which protrudes into the viewers space, the outdoors, is similar in gesture to the mans in Lippis portrait, whose hand rests on the window sill. In both cases, the gestures suggest transgression of boundary lines. In Lippis portrait, Scolari, the male
73 suitor, intruded upon the domestic space of the home from the outside in. In Botticellis case, Smerelda, the beloved, creeps out of the dreary househ old shadows, from behind the shutters and out into the public outdoors. The face to face exchange with Smerelda is bold; she is not objectified as was Sapiti and most other earlier female sitters, thus she refuses to stand idly by to be the object of anothers gaze.36 Like Lippis painting, the landscape at whic h the lady gazes is not pictured within the parameters of the frame, but because of the perspective, we understand that we occupy this space. The audience, the artist, and the patrons, all make up her public for whom she is now eternally cast as spectacle. While she remains frozen in time, the everchanging and growing public passes by her window to catch a glim pse of her. Just as the conduct manuals warned, one cannot control the number of peering ey es that can look upon a lady who shows herself at her window. Another intriguing detail a bout this portrait is Brandi nis simple dress, which makes it difficult to argue that this lady is participating in a monumental ceremony, as is the case argued for Sapiti. She is shown wear ing an outfit with very little ornamentation, well suited for domestic duties, but not for pos ing for an expensive portrait painting. Her loose-fitting white camicia, or chemise, is worn over her gamurra and her accessories consist of only a basic collar around her neck. Her hair is pulled back in a simple coif under a light-weight cap. Contrast this with the elaborate dress of Lippis lady and glaring differences are readily apparent. Cert ainly, Botticelli had reasons separate from Lippis as he made the choice to render this austere portrait, clos ely resembling the sober ladies of the Northern Dutch genre paintings. Perhaps Brandinis plain dress is meant to 36 For further discussion on women in profile portraits see Patricia Simons article, Women in Frames: The Gaze, the Eye, the Profile in Renaissance Portraiture. The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History. Ed. Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard. United St ates of America: Westvi ew Press, 1992. 39-57.
74 exemplify her obedience to strict sumptuary laws that resulted from the religious and moral reform during the Quattrocento. Her unadorned attire recalls Barbaros comment wherein he advised men to keep their wives pl ainly dressed so that they would not feel themselves tempted to venture to the window s where they could be seen. Either way, it seems that Botticelli desired to portray a woma n bearing a great deal of restraint from material desires. In this regard she is th e paragon of the good wife, yet there is still the problem of her bold and defiant presentation at the window. If we pay close attention to the detail included in the backgr ound, it seems as if Botticelli intended to capture a spontaneous, more candid scene of daily life. The space in which Brandini stands is suggestive of a terrace or loggia and in the background there is an open door, a reminder of the interior space where she would be more safely removed from the dangers outside. Furthermore, th e choice to leave the door open gives the impression that the woman has entered this pl ace with haste, perh aps intending to pass back through into the adjoining room moment arily. I imagine her presence here as one fleeting moment in which she absconded to th is window to see and be seen. She may be dutiful in the sense that she is demurely dressed, but her station at the window, exchanging glances with those outside of he r home, contradicts what conduct manuals have instructed. Stripped of all the fineries of dress and wealth, Smerel da stands in the window as a figure of individuality and independence, a woman engaged in daily activity, however inappropriate and forbidden it may have been for her to do so. She has not taken the time out of her day to be groomed and poised to have her likeness painted and later displayed as if she were a mannequin whose only purpose is to model the family wealth. The
75 absence of a husband, or any family for that ma tter, supports the idea that another sort of intimate relationship exists here, but her enigma tic facial expression leaves us with fewer clues upon which to decipher this relationship. For as many di fferent spectators who stop to who behold her there at her window, Brandi ni responds with just as many exchanges. It is this ambiguity which bu ilds the narrative and adds depth to Botticellis painting. The viewer can no longer passively view the woman in the portrait for the simple pleasure of witnessing feminine beauty and honor, but must contemplate her individuality, personality and motives. She is actively taki ng part in her fate and engaging with the public. She opens the window and thus contro ls when, where, and from what angle we see her. Moreover, we are not allowed to look at her without her exercising the same privilege in return. She is aware of her audience, and as she stands there she invites spectators on her own terms of display a nd exchange. The power Brandini commands over the way in which she is perceived is one of the principle fears of fifteenth-century Italians, and their concerns found numerous ou tlets of expression through the publication of contemporary conduct manuals. In both Lippis and Botticellis works examined here, the wi ndow motif adds an interesting, yet puzzling element to the portrait narrative. Ra ther than simply displaying the wealth, virtue, and beauty of these women, as was th e focus of many contemporary female portraits, these two works suggest a deep er narrative: a narra tive that by virtue of the windows present, opens the scene to include others beyond those of simply the sitter and her patron. The windows reduce the physi cal and metaphorical wall space built up around the Tuscan women of the fifteenth centu ry, and when present in portraiture, the
76 window motif flirts with this fine line of what was considered to be an acceptable boundary between women and the public.
77 Conclusion: During the fifteenth century, prescriptive literature was coveted and esteemed, as is made evident through the wide variety of different exhortatory forms of literature. Courtesy books, conduct manuals, catalogs of exemplum, broadsheets, emblematic works, moralizing essays, and letters providi ng advice to family and friends were all embraced by a public greedy for regulated forms of proper conduct by which to measure Tuscan identities and normative behavior. Fe minine morals and conduct, particularly sexual mores, were of utmost concern in th e collective ideo logies of the period, and the implications for women were often harsh. Conduct manuals, despite their philanthropic intentions, ceaselessly circul ated fears and anxieties about womens unbridled sexuality and reckless regard for chastity. From th e thirteenth century onward, these anxieties were internalized, and as a result, paterfamilias developed ever-inventive modes for disciplining womens sexual conduct.37 Certainly other external so cial pressures, some of which are unique to this part icular period in Tuscany, contri buted to the need to firmly establish a unified structur e of discipline for wives and daughters and refine proper conduct. For example, the increasingly co mpetitive marriage market, rise in dowry funds, localized honor codes, culture of displa y, and finally, existing ge nder ideologies all worked together to form a cultural consensus that women needed to be contained and protected in order to safeguard their valuab le chastity. With the new emphasis on the 37 Anthony Molho, Deception and Marriage Strategy in Renaissance Florence: The Case of Womens Ages. Renaissance Quarterly 41. (Summer 1988). 205-208.
78 family at the heart of the state, ushered in by the treatises of Barbaro and Alberti, domestic matters were meticulously cond itioned and womens movement increasingly limited. As a result, the home was codifi ed as a place of honor and virtue and paterfamilias vigilantly surveyed transgressi ons of these established boundaries. I posit that we might trace, from thes e early treatises on the family to the seventeenth-century, an increase in more qua lified, specific lists of proper behavior deemed appropriate for women along with growi ng lists of those activities to be avoided. Included amongst this regulatory program was the abhorrence of wo men who frequented their household windows. These women, from their supposedly protected position within the household, sought to breech these boundaries of the home at the windows, doors and balconies, interstices in these carefully c onstructed architectural chastity belts. Boccaccio, Lippi and Botticelli, honored in their own time and ours, each capture the material quality of the era by including fa miliar settings and spaces in their work although Botticellis painting studie d here is more anomalous than typical of his work and their interests in such real settings a llowed them to comment on contemporary social institutions. It is difficult to imagine th at with the stigma su rrounding household windows as improper places for women to appear, that these artistic geniuses, all noted for their social consciousness and moralizing programs, would have chosen to use these windows and openings ignorant of their cultural sy mbolism. Undoubtedly, there are more popular artists who would join their ranks, of whom I have neglected to note here.38 Perhaps some of these artists would have incorporated th e window motif in their works with similar 38 Lauro Martiness Seduction an d Family Space is a thorough study of the theme of seduction in 14thto 16th-century popular fictions and plays, along with a helpful chronological list of authors and dates, wherein he concludes that women and windows were obsessively linked in the corpus of tales and that the tales are constructed on historical and cultural accuracies ( 213).
79 intentions of capturing contemporary practice and exploiting socially constructed systems of discipline, morals and conduct. Much has already been written about th e public-private divi de in studies of medieval and Renaissance culture. It is also true that these studies have already been met with challenges as to the validity of such a st ructural base for sociol ogical and historical investigation.39 I am hesitant to abandon such a fr amework, relatively young as it is, and believe that a better understanding of the means through which the society defined and constructed this gender divide will provide us with more insight into actual experiences of men and women in Quattrocento Tuscan cities, and elsewhere in Europe. If we are to consciously look for window s to appear in popular culture between the fifteenth century and today, many tales, songs, and films readily come to mind. For example, the balcony scene in Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet has become iconic as a clandestine meeting place between star-crossed lovers who fatefully meet their tragic end. Similarly, in a moving and integral scene of the classic Italian film, Cinema Paradiso Peppino courts Elena outside of her bedroom window for several days and in horrible weather conditions to win back her affections. The popular fairy tale Rapunzel hinges on the heroines ability to escape the confines of the tower by gr owing her hair long so that her valiant prince may rescue her through th e one and only window at the top of the tower. I could certainly name several others here, and I am sure that my readers may think of several other instances on their own, bu t this brings me off topic. My point here is that the windows and the other openings in the walls of the home persist as metaphors 39 Thomas Kuehn, Daughters, Mothers, Wives and Widows: Women as Legal Persons. Time, Space and Womens Lives in Early Modern Europe. (Missouri: Truman State Univers ity Press, 2001).97-101.; Merry Wiesner-Hanks Womens History and Social History: Are Structures Necessary? Time, Space and Womens Lives in Early Modern Europe.( Missouri: Truman State University Press, 2001). 3-16.
80 or symbols for transgression, deviancy, and s ecrecy, and an examination of these symbols may even reveal some of our own contempor ary conceptions of moral consciousness. Of course, young daughters do not experience the sa me degree of confinement and discipline today as did in fifteenth-century women, at least I hope not, but what child hasnt been grounded, restricted or placed in tim e-out (although it might more appropriately be called time-in) in order to learn right from wrong? Similarl y, what parent hasnt contemplated window locks so that teenagers do not sneak out at ni ght or leave without permission? These fears and a nxieties are remnants of an earlier and highly conscious society who had clear ideas of gendered space which connoted proper morals. Windows and other openings literally and figuratively blur and weaken the boundary between public and private, masculine and feminine, im pure/broken and chaste/intact, and as such they were targeted by moralizing writers a nd exploited in popular culture. The sheer volume of the window motif in all forms of learned and popular culture is a testament to fifteenth-century tensions regarding sexual disc ipline of women, and amidst the wealth of discourse on feminine chastity and confinem ent a few dissident voices emerge eager to redress the harsh implications which the requirement of chastity held for women.
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