Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

December 2013

Antonio Pisanello
Antonio Pisanello. Luxuria, ca. 1426. Vienna, Albertina Museum.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
See the Feminae record on this drawing for more details.

Burke, Jill. "Nakedness and Other Peoples: Rethinking the Italian Renaissance Nude," Art History 36, 4 (2013): 714-739.

Abstract: This essay proposes that we question the current understanding of the Italian Renaissance nude by examining contemporaries' perceptions of nakedness. Despite the importance of the nude for the development of Western art, there have been few studies that consider how the revival of the nude form in fifteenth-century Italy was understood by people at the time. Most scholars, understandably, see the new fashion for portraying naked figures in the fifteenth century as a direct reflection of the enthusiasm for classical antiquity during this era. Without denying the crucial importance of antique precedents, I wish here to investigate another possibility: that travellers' accounts of naked natives encountered on European voyages of exploration, particularly those to sub-Saharan Africa, influenced the creation of what has been called a 'Renaissance anthropology' – debates about the nature of mankind. This provided a new conceptual filter through which the nude figure was seen – and in some cases, these accounts may have directly affected the iconography of otherwise puzzling images.