Female Patrons Throughout History – 历史上的女性赞助人

For more than 3,000 years, patronage of art and architecture has been a noteworthy path for women’s agency and self-expression. Over recent decades, patronage studies – which bring together issues of personal and group identity, political power and cultural production – have come to occupy a significant place in the history of art. It is well known that, in many cases, informed and intelligent patrons took an active role in shaping the character of the works they commissioned. The English term ‘patron’ comes from the Latin patronus (protector of clients or dependents, specifically freedmen), which is, in turn, derived from pater (father). Thus, the term ‘patronage’ is inherently gendered and, in nearly all cases, female patrons worked within the limitations of patriarchal societies. Yet, from Antiquity to the present day, women have requested (and collected) works of art and have commissioned buildings and urban interventions. It is important to stress that the patronage systems of the past were based on social stratification and inequalities in power and economic standing – so, in general, patronage by both women and men was the province of elites, who had the means to extend commissions. Some art historians have used the neologism ‘matronage’ when discussing women patrons but, along with most scholars working on the topic today, I prefer to use the traditional – albeit gendered – term patronage. 

The Ancient World

In New Kingdom Ancient Egypt, the 18th-dynasty pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut (1508–1458 BCE) – who co-ruled with her nephew and stepson, Thutmose III, before declaring herself pharaoh – was a significant patron of art and architecture. Works associated with her include seated and standing portrait statues, such as the one in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which shows her in masculine dress but with inscriptions using feminized terms. Hatshepsut is best known for her mortuary temple at Deir-El-Bahari in upper Egypt near Luxor, designed by her courtier-architect Senmut. The temple, characterized by colonnaded terraces, is built into a cliffside and decorated with relief sculpture narrating events from the female pharaoh’s reign. 

Several ancient sources credit the erection of the monumental Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (c.350 BCE) – the final resting place for Mausolos, ruler of Caria – to his devoted widow, Artemisia II, who was later also interred there. The elaborate tomb, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, featured figures of the couple in a quadriga (four-horse chariot), fragments  of which are housed in London’s British Museum. Although modern scholarship has questioned Artemisia’s sole patronage of the monument, it is important to underscore that, in the early-modern era, some European women patrons modelled their own commissions on those of the Hellenistic queen, whose patronage was seen as an act of devotion to her deceased husband. 


Female Patrons Throughout History - 历史上的女性赞助人

Seated Statue of Hatshepsut, c.1479–58 BCE, indurated limestone and paint, 195 x 49 x 114 cm. Courtesy: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Rogers Fund

Another female patron from the ancient world was the Empress Livia (c.59 BCE–29 CE), wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus. She is associated with numerous portraits and coins, architectural and urban interventions and, especially, her villa at Primaporta, north of Rome, which was rediscovered in the late 16th century and excavated in the 19th century. The splendid garden frescoes from her villa, known from the sources as Ad Gallinas Albas, may now be viewed in the Museo Nazionale Romano in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme; these light-filled works convey the delights of the Roman suburban villa.

Medieval and Early-Modern Europe: Nun-Patrons

With the rise of Christianity, patronage by women was often for religious purposes and was frequently carried out by the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of early-Christian and subsequent medieval aristocrats and rulers.  These female patrons constructed churches and mausolea and commissioned sacred art. During the Middle Ages and the early-modern era in western Europe, nuns and other religious women became important patrons of art and architecture. One of the best known, the Benedictine abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), is renowned for her mystical, botanical and musical texts. But she also commissioned – and, unusually, seems to have acted as painter of – illuminated manuscripts, in particular the 12th-century Scivias (Know the Ways) that  recorded her visions. 


Female Patrons Throughout History - 历史上的女性赞助人

Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias 2.1: The Redeemer, 1150/1927–33. 20th-century reconstruction in tempera on vellum of 12th-century original. Courtesy: Trivium Art History

Considerable scholarship has explored the roles of nun-patrons in early-modern Italy and northern Europe. Notably, the Franciscan nuns of Sant’Antonio of Padua in Perugia commissioned Raphael to paint the altarpiece Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints (c.1504), the main panel of which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In an interesting observation about female patronage and gendered reception, Giorgio Vasari – the great biographer of Italian Renaissance artists – tells us that Raphael depicted the altarpiece’s infant Jesus fully dressed in order to please the devout female patrons. Other Renaissance artists who worked for nun-patrons include Giovanni Bellini in Venice, Gerard David in Bruges and Antonio da Correggio in Parma. Around 1519, Correggio frescoed the umbrella vault and fireplace of the so-called Camera di San Paolo in the eponymous Benedictine convent with secular depictions of putti and an image of the pagan goddess Diana for its strong-willed abbess Giovanna da Piacenza (1479–1524). Like many nuns of the time, Giovanna was the highly educated daughter of nobles. Nuns and devout secular women were also important patrons of architecture and sacred art during the Counter-Reformation period (1545–63) and in Baroque Italy and Spain. 

Medieval and Early-Modern Europe: Secular Female Patrons 

In medieval France and at the Burgundian court, women were significant patrons (or recipient/owners) of illuminated manuscripts. A spectacular moralized bible in the Morgan Library in New York, for instance, depicts Queen Blanche of Castile (1188–1252) with her son, King Louis IX, who was later canonized. The queen’s gesture here suggests that she is advising her son, thus asserting her own agency. In the lower register we see a monk instructing an illuminator. In this period in northern Europe, Books of Hours – luxury devotional manuscripts that included prayers and other texts used by lay people – were particularly associated with women. In the grisaille annunciation scene in the tiny Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux (c.1328), on view in the Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the French Queen is shown at prayer with a book in her hands within an historiated initial ‘D’. Some 150 years later, The Hours of Mary of Burgundy (c.1477), now held in Vienna’s Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, was illuminated by several artists. Folio 14v shows Mary (daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, and wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I) at prayer, her devotions bringing forth a vision of herself in the presence of the Virgin as Queen of Heaven. The verisimilitude of 15th-century Flemish painting allows for this extraordinary trompe l’oeil illusion of a vision within an image of female devotion. 

Queens and other female rulers in early-modern Europe were patrons of both sacred and secular works of art and architecture. The daughter of Emperor Maximilian I and Mary of Burgundy, Archduchess Margaret of Austria (1480–1530), served as regent of the Netherlands and was the aunt of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Margaret was a significant collector of portraits, as well as objects from the New World, and she was a patron of Bernard van Orley, who painted several diptychs depicting her in widow’s garb on one panel, with images of the Virgin and Child on the other. Margaret was also the patron of the funerary chapel at Brou, near Bourg-en-Bresse, France. She is buried there with her beloved second husband, Philibert II, Duke of Savoy, and his mother, Margaret of Bourbon. The tombs of Margaret and Philibert are of the so-called double-decker type, each featuring effigies of the deceased seen both as living and in a state of decomposition: a category of effigy known as a transi. In her wifely devotion to the memory of her husband, Margaret modelled her patronage explicitly on that of Artemisia II of Caria. 


Female Patrons Throughout History - 历史上的女性赞助人

Raphael, Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints, c.1504, oil and gold on wood, 1.7 × 1.7 m (main panel), 75 × 180 cm (lunette). Courtesy: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and J. Pierpont Morgan


Another female ruler, the Italian-born Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France (1519–89), was a noteworthy patron of art and architecture. Her commissions included several chateaux and a funeral chapel added to the royal basilica at Saint-Denis for herself and her husband, King Henri II. The conjugal monument, in marble and bronze, shows the royal couple kneeling in prayer above gisant (supine) transi effigies of the pair in death. Catherine fashioned herself in a set of tapestries as the widow-patron Artemisia II and was compared to the Hellenistic queen by a contemporary poet. Catherine’s rival, her husband’s mistress Diane de Poitiers (1499–1566), was also an important patron who commissioned and decorated the Chateau of Anet, in northern France, with its formal gardens and representations of the patron as her namesake Diana, goddess of the hunt. These include the famous bronze relief by Benvenuto Cellini, now in the Louvre in Paris, which once graced the portal. (The topic of patronage by mistresses is a particularly interesting one that deserves further study.) 

In part because of her widespread patronage and often aggressive acquisition of art (both ancient and contemporary), and in part because her activities are exceptionally well-documented in letters, account books and inventories, Isabella d’Este, Marchioness of Mantua (1474–1539), has been, and remains, the quintessential exemplar of the female art patron in Renaissance Italy. Unusually well-educated for a woman of the period, she was an extraordinarily demanding patron. Until relatively recently, Isabella has also been singled out as the great exception, a nearly unique instance of a Renaissance woman who acted as a patron of art. She commissioned a number of Italy’s most famous artists – among them Leonardo da Vinci, Andrea Mantegna, Pietro Perugino and Titian – to decorate her rooms in Mantua’s Castello di San Giorgio and Ducal Palace, as well as to paint portraits of her. She also commissioned medals, manuscripts and other decorative objects. In one surviving letter, she described her ‘insatiable desire for antiquities’ and, indeed, she went to great lengths to obtain ancient works of art. The sculptor Antico (Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi) fashioned many small, precious bronzes after antique works for her. Isabella was dubbed Prima donna del mondo (foremost woman of the world) by her contemporaries and today her patronage and collecting continue to be the subject of much research. In the past 25 years, there has also been a great deal of scholarship dedicated to other Italian female patrons of this period in places including grand ducal Florence, Venice, papal Rome and various north Italian courts. Particularly interesting research has been done in recent years on patronage and collecting by non-elite women in Renaissance Italy. Examples include several middle-class female patrons of the Florentine painter Neri di Bicci, whose commissions are documented in his workshop record books. 

In her patronage of portraits of herself, the most famous female ruler in history, Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1533–1603), conveyed carefully crafted messages about her lineage, power and gender. In 1588, the monarch famously proclaimed to the troops who had been assembled in Tilbury to prepare to repel Spanish invaders: ‘I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too.’ In the so-called ‘Sieve Portraits’ made of the Queen by various artists, her virginity is referenced via her holding of a sieve – an allusion to the Roman vestal virgin Tuccia – while, in others, her regal authority is stressed. With few exceptions, Elizabeth never aged in her portraits. In versions of the Armada Portrait (1588), by an unknown artist, the Queen’s power is symbolized by the imperial crown and the globe upon which she rests her right hand. In the background, two scenes of the Spanish Armada allude to the English victory over the Spanish fleet sent to invade England and overthrow Protestantism in 1588; the English cause was greatly bolstered by fierce storms. The portrait visualizes a great propaganda victory for Gloriana, the Virgin Queen, and is a triumph of self-fashioning through art.


Female Patrons Throughout History - 历史上的女性赞助人

Titian, Portrait of Isabella d’Este, c.1534–36, oil on canvas, 100 × 60 cm. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Women Artists, Women Patrons

The celebrated Bolognese painter Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) was prized by late Renaissance noblewomen of Bologna for her ability to render their jewels, sumptuous dresses and even their lap dogs with meticulous attention to detail. These traits may be observed in the artist’s portrait of a young woman (c.1580), from the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., in which the sitter wears a lavish red dress of the type commonly worn by brides in 16th-century Bologna. Fontana also painted portraits of several wealthy Bolognese widows.

The story of women patrons has continued to the present day. The commissions of royal mistresses, Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry, helped to shape artistic taste in 18th-century France; subsequently, Queen Marie Antoinette supported the career of her preferred portraitist, the painter Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun; and notable late 19th- and 20th-century patrons and collectors include Peggy Guggenheim, Louisine Havemeyer, Gertrude Stein and A’Lelia Walker. Today, some 3,500 years after Hatshepsut, women continue to support contemporary art and architecture with great enthusiasm. From Antiquity to our own time, a number of the issues considered here – particularly female agency and self-expression – are still very much relevant to the study of art patronage by women. 

Published in Frieze Masters, issue 7, 2018, with the title ‘Women’s Agency’.

Main image: Unknown Artist, Portrait of Elizabeth I of England, The Armada Portrait, 1588, oil on panel, 1.1 x 1.3 m. Courtesy: Woburn Abbey Collection, Woburn

Sheryl E. Reiss

Dr. Sheryl E. Reiss is a writer and the scholar-in-residence at the Newberry Library, Chicago, USA. 

Issue 7

First published in Issue 7

September 2018

Features /

Art History
Medieval Art
Frieze Masters 7
Sheryl E. Reiss

3000多年来,艺术和建筑的赞助一直是女性代言和自我表达的一条值得注意的道路。近几十年来,赞助研究——将个人和群体身份、政治权力和文化生产等问题结合在一起——在艺术史上占据了重要的地位。众所周知,在许多情况下,知情和聪明的赞助人在塑造他们委托的作品的性格方面起到了积极的作用。英语术语“赞助人”来自拉丁语的赞助人(客户或受抚养人的保护者,特别是自由人),这反过来又衍生自赞助人(父亲)。因此,术语“赞助”具有固有的性别,在几乎所有情况下,女性赞助人在父权社会的限制下工作。然而,从古代到今天,妇女已经要求(和收集)艺术品,并委托建筑和城市干预。必须强调的是,过去的资助制度是建立在社会分层、权力和经济地位不平等的基础上的——因此,一般来说,男女资助都是精英阶层的所在地,精英阶层有扩大佣金的手段。一些艺术史学家在讨论女性赞助人时使用了新词“matronage”,但是,与今天在这个话题上工作的大多数学者一样,我更喜欢使用传统的——尽管是性别的——术语“赞助人”。甚至哈特谢普苏特(公元前1508-1458年)——在宣布自己是法老之前,与她的侄子和继子图特摩斯三世共同统治——都是艺术和建筑的重要赞助人。与她的作品包括坐和站立肖像雕像,如新约克的大都会艺术博物馆,这表明她在男性服装,但铭文使用女性化的条款。Hatshepsut最著名的是她在埃及卢克索附近的迪尔埃尔巴哈里的太平间庙宇,由她的朝臣建筑师森穆特设计。这座庙宇的特点是有一个带柱廊的梯田,建在悬崖边上,装饰着浮雕雕塑,讲述了从法老王统治时期的故事。几个古代的来源相信哈里卡纳苏斯纪念碑的建造(公元前350年)。Mausolos,卡里亚的统治者——他的遗孀Artemisia II,后来也在那里被埋葬。精心制作的陵墓是古代世界七大奇观之一,以四足动物(四辆马车)为特色,其中的碎片位于伦敦大英博物馆。尽管现代学术界对阿耳特米西亚独自赞助这座纪念碑表示怀疑,但重要的是要强调,在早期-现代时代,一些欧洲妇女赞助者以希腊女王的佣金为榜样,她的赞助被视为对她的奉献。已故丈夫。已故丈夫。已故雕像_hatshepsut_c.1479-58_bce_.._limestone_and_._195_x_49_x_114_cm._courtesy_metropolitan_._of_art_New_york_and_rogers_fund油漆,195×49×114厘米。礼仪:纽约大都会艺术博物馆和罗杰斯基金。来自古代世界的另一位女性赞助人是罗马皇帝奥古斯都的妻子利维亚皇后(公元前59年至公元前29年)。她与众多肖像画和硬币、建筑和城市干预有关,尤其是她在罗马北部普里马波尔塔的别墅,该别墅在16世纪末被重新发现,19世纪被发掘。她别墅的壮丽花园壁画,从源头上称为Ad Gallinas Albas,现在可以在Terme马西莫宫的纳粹罗马博物馆中欣赏;这些充满光芒的作品传达了罗马郊区别墅的乐趣。中世纪和早期现代欧洲:修女赞助人随着基督教的兴起,妇女的赞助常常出于宗教目的,并且经常由早期基督教的母亲、妻子、姐妹和女儿以及后来的中世纪贵族和统治者执行。教堂和毛泽东教堂,并委托神圣艺术。在中世纪和近代早期,西欧修女和其他宗教妇女成为艺术和建筑的重要赞助者。其中最著名的,本笃会修道院院长希尔德加德宾根(1098-1179),是著名的神秘,植物和音乐文本。但她还委托——而且不寻常地,似乎还充当了照明手稿的画家,尤其是12世纪的《斯基维亚》(知路),它记录了她的想象。希尔德加德_of_bingen_scivias_2.1_救世主_11501927-33._20世纪_._in_temPera_on_vellum_of_12世纪_原始._courtesy_trivium_art_.Female Patrons Throughout History - 历史上的女性赞助人 Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias 2.1:救世主, 1150/1927-33.二十世纪重建在十二世纪的原甲上。礼仪:Trivium Art History.相当多的学者探讨了修女赞助人在早期现代意大利和北欧的角色。值得一提的是,佩鲁贾帕多亚的圣安东尼奥的弗朗西斯坎修女委托拉斐尔为圣母玛当娜和圣婴的圣坛作画(约1504年),圣坛的主要镶板现在在大都会艺术博物馆。在一个关于女性赞助和性别接待的有趣观察中,意大利文艺复兴艺术家的伟大传记作家乔治·瓦萨里(Giorgio Vasari)告诉我们,拉斐尔为了取悦虔诚的女性赞助者,把祭坛上的婴儿耶稣打扮得漂漂亮亮。其他为修女赞助人工作的文艺复兴艺术家包括威尼斯的乔凡尼·贝利尼、布鲁日的杰拉德·戴维和帕尔马的安东尼奥·达·科雷吉奥。大约1519年,科雷吉奥在著名的本笃会修道院里用普提的世俗画像和戴安娜的肖像为坚强的修道院长乔万娜·达·皮亚琴扎(1479-1524)绘制了所谓的“圣保罗相机”的伞形拱顶和壁炉的壁画。像当时的许多修女一样,Giovanna是贵族的受过高等教育的女儿。修女和虔诚的世俗妇女也是反改革时期(1545-63年)以及巴洛克意大利和西班牙建筑和神圣艺术的重要赞助人。中世纪和早期现代欧洲:世俗女性赞助人。在中世纪法国和勃艮第宫廷,妇女具有象征意义。被照明的手稿的蚂蚁赞助人(或收件人/拥有者)。例如,纽约摩根图书馆一本引人入胜的道德化圣经描述了卡斯蒂利亚女王布兰奇(1188-1252)和她的儿子路易九世(King Louis IX),后者后来被封为圣人。女王的手势暗示她正在劝告她的儿子,因此主张自己的代理。在较低的寄存器中,我们看到一个僧侣指示照明器。在北欧的这个时期,《时书》——包括祈祷和普通人使用的其他文字的豪华宗教手稿——尤其与妇女有关。在珍妮·德·埃弗勒斯(公元1328年)的小时里,在大都会艺术博物馆的寺院里,人们看到法国女王手里拿着一本书在祈祷。大约150年后,勃艮第玛丽时代(约1477年),现在在维也纳的奥斯特里奇谢国家图书馆举办,被一些艺术家照亮。对开本14v显示玛丽(勃艮第公爵的女儿,大胆查尔斯,和圣罗马皇帝马西米兰一世的妻子)在祈祷,她的奉献带来了自己的形象,在圣母作为天后在场。15世纪佛兰德绘画的逼真性使这种异乎寻常的幻觉在女性虔诚的形象中得以实现。早期现代欧洲的女王和其他女性统治者是神圣的和世俗的艺术和建筑作品的赞助者。玛格丽特皇帝马西米兰一世和勃艮第的玛丽的女儿,奥地利大公爵夫人玛格丽特(1480-1530),曾任荷兰摄政王,是神圣罗马皇帝查理五世玛格丽特的姨妈。玛格丽特是一位重要的肖像画收藏家,以及新大陆的物品。伯纳德·凡·奥利的赞助人,他画了几幅画像,在一个画板上描绘她穿着寡妇的衣服,另一个画板上有圣母和孩子的画像。玛格丽特也是布鲁附近的葬礼教堂的守护神,在法国的布格恩布雷斯附近。她和她心爱的第二任丈夫,萨伏伊公爵Philibert II和波旁的母亲玛格丽特一起葬在那里。玛格丽特和菲利伯特的坟墓是所谓的双层式坟墓,每座坟墓都以死者的肖像为特色,这些肖像既被视为活着的,又被视为处于分解的状态:一种被称作transi的肖像类型。为了纪念丈夫,玛格丽特在妻子心目中明确地模仿了卡里亚的阿耳特米西亚二世的赞助。拉斐尔_麦当娜_and_child_enthro._with_saints_c.1504_._and_._on_wood_1.7_x_1.7_m_main_._75_x_180_c m_lun.._courtesy_metropolitan_._of_art_n_nEWYYYKYAND和J.P.Female Patrons Throughout History - 历史上的女性赞助人拉斐尔、麦当娜和圣子入室,约1504,木上油和金,1.7×1.7米(主板),75×180厘米(月板)。礼貌:纽约大都会艺术博物馆,J.Pierpont Morgan——另一位女性统治者,出生于意大利的法国女王凯瑟琳·德·梅迪奇(1519-89),是一位值得注意的艺术和建筑赞助者。她的任务包括为她自己和丈夫亨利二世国王在圣丹尼斯的皇家大教堂增加几个城堡和一个殡仪堂。大理石和铜制的结婚纪念碑上,一对皇室夫妇跪着祈祷,跪在那对死去的吉安特(仰卧)跨界肖像上。凯瑟琳把自己塑造成一套挂毯,作为守寡者阿耳特米西亚二世,并被当代诗人比作希腊女王。凯瑟琳的对手,她丈夫的情妇Diane de Poitiers(149)


Comments are closed.