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The image of the ideal wife in early modern Venice in art and text.

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Introduction

Emily Wheating. HART 2225: Art and Power in Renaissance Venice. Dr. Maria Loh. 1. The image of the ideal wife in early modern Venice in art and text. The Republic of Venice otherwise known as La Serenissima had a reputation for its security and political unity. It had a reputation for its 'unsullied liberty, unwavering religiousity, social harmony and unfailingly peaceful intentions.'1 Art was used throughout the city to show and teach social and political virtues and expectations, according to Muir 'artistic patronage became an arm of government.' In consideration of this it was also a way of social propaganda, as high ranking members of the scuolas including the Dukes and Doges could depict them selves performing virtuous acts, thus promoting their reputation in the eyes of the republic. Venetian art depicting women at home gave a portrayal of what was expected from women in a domestic environment, and by their husbands. There was a strong family ethic within Venice promoting civic unity and strength, which was paramount in the running of the state. The images were all made how society expected the wife to be and what stereotypes were imposed upon women. All images of women were depicted through the eyes of men, and how they wished for others to perceive their household. ...read more.

Middle

There are various aspects of the works that support this. She is placed on the dexter side5, however there is a claim that Federigo de Montefeltro had a facial deformity on the right hand side of his face, and was therefore always painted showing his best side. Apart from this, there are other aspects of the portrait that are Sfora Battista's favour. According to what was considered fashionable at the time her skin was very pale with hardly any shadowing. The pale sky is tonally very similar and brings out the pale colouring of her skin, emphasising its purity and clarity. In contrast to smooth texture of her skin the folds of the white cloth at the back of her head and the pearls hanging from her neck and the rest of her accessories are very detailed. The fact that our attention is drawn to her jewellery and clothing make us focus on her high ranking and social status. The two paintings come as a pair, however are linked and made whole by the contiguous background, and the matching triumphs painted on the other side. The backgrounds are subtly gendered in their content. Behind the woman there are small images of households. Behind her husband images of boats, similar to the background of Carpaccio's painting, showing more male activities. ...read more.

Conclusion

In reality she is a good and faithful wife, and should be loved and honoured by her husband accordingly. Visually we are made to sympathise with the woman, as her side of the story as a victim is portrayed to us first, as the painting is read from right to left. The woman is depicted with two other women, one holding her own child so that she can directly be compared to the woman who is having her child taken away from her, making us more sympathetic to her case. Titian is effectively campaigning for the necessity of the mother in the family life, as the painting is ultimately in support of the accused wife. Women in Venice were an essential part in the running of the household and family life. Good wives were celebrated for their virtues, which were specifically expressed in portraits and representations of domestic scenes. Veronese shows a wife being honoured for her contribution to the family name, whereas Titian shows a wife disgraced for not performing her familial duties. However in both cases the importance of the women in the nurture and domestic environment is demonstrated in both images. Masters of the household who had wives that would effectively add to the prestige of their family ranking and lineage honoured their wives through their portraiture, thus making eternal the contribution and importance they had to the family. ...read more.

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