Lay Patronage and Religious Art

Authored by: Catherine E. King

The Ashgate Research Companion to Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409418177
eBook ISBN: 9781315613765
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041054


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In early modern Europe devotional art forms played key roles in maintaining traditional and introducing new ideas about leading good lives. Since lay people who commissioned religious art had such cultural power we need to ask who they were and what views they promoted. Following the studies of Frederick Antal (1947) it became customary to examine how patronage was related to class and how commissions affirmed and shifted notions of social identity. 1 1

Antal, 1947.

Then, from the 1980s onwards, historians influenced by the Women’s Movement started to examine the way gender affected commissioning and ask how, according to rank, patrons approved and contested conventional ideals of masculine and feminine conduct. 2 2

Marrow, 1982; Anderson, 1996, pp. 129–38.

Given its historiographical roots, research on gender has prioritized the study of female patronage, and awaits matching studies addressing male buying. However, insights concerning gendered consumption have already been achieved by this very focus on the subordinate other, rather than the dominant subject masquerading as neutral representative of humankind.

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