The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy

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Yale University Press, 1999 - Art - 212 pages
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Childbirth in Renaissance Italy was encouraged, celebrated, and commemorated with a wide range of objects, from wooden trays and bowls and maiolica wares to paintings, sculpture, clothing, linens, and food. This groundbreaking book examines for the first time the appearance, meaning, and function of these childbirth objects. It also describes the social and cultural context in which they were created, purchased, and bestowed. In doing so, the book offers many insights into Renaissance daily life.

Jacqueline Marie Musacchio draws on surviving works of art as well as contemporary and largely unpublished inventories, diaries, and letters, to illustrate the strong bond between the art and rituals of childbirth in Renaissance Italy. She describes a family-centered society seeking to rebuild itself in the wake of the catastrophic population decline wrought by the Black Death. Birth objects were symbols of fertility that encouraged pregnancy. But they were also rewards for procreation that congratulated the new mother. To demonstrate this, Musacchio investigates how objects were given, lent, bought, or commissioned as part of marriage and birth rituals, and how particular images and objects were regarded as aids to pregnancy and birth. For a variety of reasons, she concludes that childbirth objects served as necessary mediating devices between the real and ideal worlds.

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About the author (1999)

Jacqueline Marie Musacchio is associate professor of art at Wellesley College. She is the author of "The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy" (Yale).

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