Women, Art and Architectural Patronage in Renaissance Mantua: Matrons, Mystics and Monasteries

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Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2012 - History - 192 pages
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Analyzing the artistic patronage of famous and lesser known women of Renaissance Mantua, and introducing new patronage paradigms that existed among those women, this study sheds new light on the social, cultural and religious impact of the cult of female mystics of that city in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. Author Sally Hickson combines primary archival research, contextual analysis of the climate of female mysticism, and a re-examination of a number of visual objects (particularly altarpieces devoted to local beatae, saints and female founders of religious orders) to delineate ties between women both outside and inside the convent walls. The study contests the accepted perception of Isabella d'Este as a purely secular patron, exposing her role as a religious patron as well. Hickson introduces the figure of Margherita Cantelma and documents concerning the building and decoration of her monastery on the part of Isabella d'Este; and draws attention to the cultural and political activities of nuns of the Gonzaga family, particularly Isabella's daughter Livia Gonzaga who became a powerful agent in Mantuan civic life. Women, Art and Architectural Patronage in Renaissance Mantua provides insight into a complex and fluid world of sacred patronage, devotional practices and religious roles of secular women as well as nuns in Renaissance Mantua.

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This is a superb book. You walk with the author from one inspirational story to another using meticulous research which seems academically secure but never intrudes into the overall development of her thesis. The text works both as a 'good read' and a reference source.
Sally Hickson is to be congratulated.


Giacomo Francia Madonna and Child with Saints Gervase
Margherita Cantelma and Isabella dEste
Gian Cristoforo Romano attributed to Portrait of a Woman probably
Margherita Cantelma Isabella dEste and
Detail showing the Cantelma Monastery from the 1707 copy
School of Giulio Romano Battista Covo? Cantelmo Monument in
Suor Ippolita and Suor Paola Gonzaga in Mantua
Facade of the former clarissan Church of Santa Paola or Corpus Domini
Margherita Paleologa
Giulio Romano Portrait of Margherita Paleologa c 1531 oil on panel
Selected Letters of Isabella dEste and Margherita Cantelma

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About the author (2012)

Sally Hickson is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Guelph (Canada), where she teaches Italian Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture.

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