Portrait of a Woman With a Man at a Casement: Fra Filippo Lippi Term Paper

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¶ … Renaissance Portrait: Portrait of a Woman With a Man at a Casement by Fra Filippo Lippi

The objective of this study is to analyze a Renaissance portrait. For this purpose the work of Fra Filippo Lippi, Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement has been chosen. This work has been deemed to be one of the "greatest Florentine portraits of its time." (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, p. 1) it is stated that while it is not possible to identify the coat of arms underneath the hands of the man in the portrait, that it is probably the coat of arms of the Scolari family of Florence and that the couple is most likely Ranieri Scolari and Angiola di Bernardo Sapiti, who had married in 1436. The woman is pictures wearing "the sumptuous clothing and jewelry or a newlywed" with the woman's overdress "lined with fur, and the sleeves of her costly underdress are woven with loops of gold." (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, p. 1) the woman is wearing a headdress reported to be "known as a sella" which is studded with pearls also appearing in abundance on the rest of her clothing and "spelling out lealta" meaning 'loyalty' on the "drapery flowing over her wrist." (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, p. 1)

I. The Woman

The manner in which the woman's hands rest upon her abdomen gives the appearance that the woman is expecting a child as the woman's abdomen appears to be extended in pregnancy. Masters (2013) writes that art during the Renaissance "was made to order" and that the result of the commission process was that "artists often adjusted composition and style to comply with the requests of his patron." (p. 3) This mean that the artist would regulate "function, shape, materials, subject matter, time allowed for completion and final quality of work produced" upon the basis of the patron's wishes. When commissions were obtained by the master painter, the master's apprentices would assist in the execution of the work of art and multiple artists are reported to have "meshed seamlessly as they worked together to complete commissions." (Master, 2013, p. 4)

II. Renaissance Portraits

Renaissance portraits are reported to "generally represent an individual; however it can depict the likeness of the sitter with realistic facial features, or it may describe the subject's social position or character. Specific factors affecting portraiture include the balance between true likeness of the sitter vs. generality or idealization, the decision to depict physical or internal aspects of the sitter including the soul, character, or virtues, and lastly, the negotiations between the artist, sitter and patron." (Masters, 2013, p. 4)

Multiple mediums were used in Renaissance art including "fresco, marble and bronze sculpture, metal work (medals or coinage) and oil and tempera painting." (Masters, 2013, p. 4) During the Medieval period which proceeded the Renaissance period, "subjects of portraiture appear linear, stiff, and lifeless; however, as the Renaissance developed 'life' was breathed into portraiture, and facial elements became useful parts rather than linear marks on a flattened facial plane." (Masters, 2013, pp. 4-5)

III. Gender in Renaissance Portraiture

The work of Shearer West holds that when analyzing Italian Renaissance portraiture that gender "is of utmost importance" in that in order to effectively study the portraits of the Italian Renaissance, "all portraits must be evaluated -- portraits of women and men by both women and men" because the focus of those creating such works of art have historically had a focus on the "social role, physical attributes, and character of the sitter" and each of these are impacted by the gender politics of the time period in which they are created. Women during the Renaissance period were viewed by men as a "tool to display wealth and lineage. They generally considered women to be "weak, foolish, sensual, and untrustworthy." (Masters, 2013, p. 4)

Marsilio Ficino stated that women "should be used like chamber pots: hidden away once a man has pissed in them" and these types of opinions are reported to have only grown even stronger "with the emergence of Neoplatonism and the teachings of Facino, a humanist scholar. (Master, 2013, p. 4) Masters reports that the "limited value of women in Italian Renaissance society was dependent on "their role as wife and mother -- the instrument through which families could create alliances and lineage continued with the birth of male heirs." (2013, p. 5) Women died on a regular basis giving birth to children and many died not long after having given birth resulting in women having a short life and man marrying multiple times during their lives.

Because of the limitations placed on women in the Renaissance period, giving birth to a male heir was the pinnacle of what a woman could accomplish during the Renaissance period. As well the parameters placed on the existence of women during the Renaissance period mean that women were "forced to conform to the expectations of both family and other members of Italian society." (Masters, 2013, p. 5) There were many obstacles to overcome for both female patrons of art and female artists during the Renaissance period.

IV. Functions of Female Portraiture

The functions of female portraiture during the Renaissance period are reported to be inclusive of "commemorative works, donor portraits, and images of ideal beauty." (Masters, 2013, p. 6) When portraits were utilized in the form of commemorative artwork it is reported that of primary importance to convey were "lineage and wealth." (Masters, 2013, p. 6) it is reported that Paola Tinagli states that women were painted "upon their betrothal or in honor of marriage. This claim is supported by the age, costume (including both clothing and jewelry) and bound hair of the female sitters portrayed." (Masters, 2013, p. 6) in fact, the only time that women were seen on display was at the time of marriage or when "publicity was necessary to legitimize marriage or to display wealth and prestige. In addition, a great many portraits of women were completed after their death in order to "commemorate the life of the deceased." (Master, 2013, p. 6)

Women also appear in religious paintings as donors. In the Northern Italian courts, female donors are portrayed in their finery so that their wealth is publicly advertised however, in the other courts of Italy, it is reported that "this practice was frowned upon and female donors were pictured in dark attire with heads covered in white cloth." (Master, 2013, p. 6) it is reported that the averted eyes of the women in Renaissance portraits as stated by Simons: "The language of the eyes could be a sensual and hence feared, even repressed one. The passionless, chaste state of a woman in profile is the product of this burden. The de-eroticized portrayal of women in profile meant female eyes no longer threaten the seeing man with castration. Her eyes cannot ward off his, nor send arrows to the lover's heart. Castration anxieties are also displaced by fetishization, by the way in which a woman's neck, eye, and other features are rendered safe commodities through fragmentation and distancing, excessive idealization." (cited in Masters, 2013, pp. 6-7)

Women in Renaissance portraits are not presented as individuals but instead as the ideal woman with all women having similar facial features of the sitter but not representing the sitter accurately. The desired physical traits of the Renaissance period are inclusive of "a high, round forehead, plucked eyebrows, blond hair, fair skin, rosy cheeks, ruby lips, white teeth, dark eyes, and graceful hands." (Masters, 2013, p. 13) the qualities of virtue portrayed in art during the Renaissance period included such as "modesty, humility, piety, constancy, charity, obedience, and chastity." (Master, 2013, p. 15) the Italian phrase 'virtutem forma decorat' means 'beauty adorns virtue' and this is reported to express the commonly held belief of the Italian Renaissance society that "ideal moral characteristics must be present for women to possess physical beauty, thus outward appearance was a reflection of inner beauty." (Masters, 2013, p. 16)

V. Analysis of Fra Filippo Lippi's Work

Fra Filippo Lippi's work Portrait of a Woman and a Man at a Casement conveys both the wealth and the prestige of the patron and appears to be commemorating the marriage of the couple. It is interesting how the man in the portrait is looking in on the woman who is seated indoors while the man stands outdoors. As previously noted in this study, the woman's hands rest lightly upon what appears to be her abdomen swollen as though she is expecting a child. The information reviewed in this study informs the study that women often died during or shortly after childbirth therefore, this study contemplates that perhaps the woman died during childbirth or perhaps had a stillborn child and then died. The reason for this supposition is the man pictured as being 'outside' and looking in at the woman as though they are somehow separated or as though the man is 'outside' of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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