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.

November 2013

The Breedon Virgin
Filippo Lippi. Feast of Herod, ca. 1465. Prato, Santo Stefano.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Long, Jane C.  "Dangerous Women: Observations on the Feast of Herod in Florentine Art of the Early Renaissance,” Renaissance Quarterly 66, 4 (2013): 1153-1205.

Abstract: This article investigates four widely studied versions of the biblical story of the Feast of Herod produced by Florentine artists in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries: Giotto’s fresco from the Peruzzi Chapel at Santa Croce (ca. 1320), Andrea Pisano’s panels on the south doors of Florence’s baptistery (ca. 1335), Donatello’s relief for the baptismal font at Siena (ca. 1425), and Filippo Lippi’s fresco in the main chapel at the cathedral of Prato (ca. 1465). The study explores how the narrative is interpreted by each artist and suggests social messages that contemporary audiences might have drawn from each interpretation by examining the actions of the figures in light of the teachings of late medieval and early Renaissance didactic literature. Conduct literature allows one to interpret what the works reveal about the story, but also suggests that they could function didactically, in and of themselves. In such a reading, Herodias and Salome are treacherous women: dangerous not only to John the Baptist, but also to Florentine society of the period.  [Reproduced from the journal page on the JSTOR website.]