“it’s probably best not to make assumptions about women’s lives in the past based solely on the evidence from a social elite.” Jill Burke. this is a really interesting post about the difficulties of judging people retrospectively especially when it comes to gender and class. we only have evidence today that hasn’t been destroyed and it is impossible to know if we have the full picture or not. plus their was no freedom of information act in the Renascence so we cannot know if the picture passed on to us of that period of time is necessarily all the information or even true.
however we can gain a picture of what those in charge at the time desired gender roles to be weather they were or not. i think its very interesting that most of Michale Angelo’s women were based on men causes people to think he was gay despite the fact that i haven’t seen any other evidence of this. just another example of why sweeping statements and rash judgements of the past can give us the wrong idea about a period of time.
When I give a talk, or run a class that includes work by Michelangelo, generally at some point someone will suggest that Michelangelo’s female figures look like “men with breasts”. I have to admit, that I sometimes deliberately task students with describing a picture of Michelangelo’s Night (right) just so I can elicit this reaction – it’s a really useful starting point for discussing ideas about what we expect men and women’s bodies to look like, whether renaissance art is naturalistic, differing ideals of beauty and so on. Because this has happened so frequently, my title for yesterday’s masterclass at Glasgow uni was “Men With Breasts: Michelangelo’s Female Nudes and the Historical Context for Body Image”.
An explanation that people often given for the Michelangelo men-with-breasts phenomenon – which we should properly call the aesthetic of androgyny – is that they couldn’t get female nude models in the Renaissance, so…
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