From Carpaccio’s “Saint Ursula” to Titian’s “Lady in White”: The Feminine Mystique in Renaissance Venice
Patricia Fortini Brown
- 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
- Patricia Fortini Brown, Professor Emerita of Art & Archaeology, Princeton University
Wives, virgins or courtesans? The feminine mystique of Renaissance Venice sanctioned two desirable roles for honorable women: as a wife and mother managing the family palace or as a virginal bride of Christ confined to a convent. Carpaccio’s Life of Saint Ursula presents an elegant paradigm of duty, forbearance and sacrifice, suitable for both such options. But there was also a third, unsanctioned, role for which Venice was famous: the courtesan. Often talented, well-educated and sumptuously dressed, courtesans might easily be mistaken for patrician wives and daughters, as exemplified by Titian’s mysterious Lady in White. This talk explores how the portrayal of women in art and literature mediated between the ideals of the feminine mystique and the realities of the time.
- Free with admission
Art historians continue to debate the youthful subject portrayed in Lady in White. Is she a courtesan? Or is she Titian’s daughter Lavinia? Is she an illegitimate child, or just an ideal portrayal of beauty? At one and the same time, the person appears before us as an individual and an ideal. But where does the never-ending fascination with this painting come from? And why is it in Dresden? To answer these questions, this lecture gets closer to the painter, to his model and to princely collections in late Renaissance and Baroque times. MORE INFO