The patriarchal setup that has reigned supreme over many civilizations for eons, has only portrayed women according to its distorted perception. These faulty depictions were rampant in art where things took a turn for the good in the Baroque Era.
While the influence of the Catholic Church was still prominent, the Protestant ideologies were flourishing as well. This led to a slight change in the depictions of women which were earlier restricted to saints or sinners, bringing a wave of feminist artists.
The female depictions in art slowly ceased to revolve around a male companion and more independent figures were seen, even from famous myths. This wave fiercely propagated gender equality and inspired millions so let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
Artemisia Gentileschi was probably one of the firsts in the race for gender inclusivity in art and hence, a true feminist. Her work featured women mimicking ‘unwomanly’ traits like anger or violence which became the core of gender studies in art.
Coming to her genealogy, her father was the famous painter, Orazio Gentileschi who was a religious follower of Caravaggio. This is why there is a heavy reflection of Caravaggio-Esque elements like a harsh shadow, right light contrasts, and a scorched palette, all of which were much revered.
The artwork in question was considered extremely forward and laid the groundwork of feminism in art due to the disparate portrayal of women. They are shown as violent to a murderous level with a backstory of rape done by the man who lays dead now. It was an immensely powerful image of women confined even by their back-crunching corsets, wielding weapons to unleash hell on their wrongdoers.
Jusepe De Ribera
Ribera was a baroque painting period artist who was much inspired by his contemporary, Caravaggio. While Ribera’s brighter palettes and sometimes, grotesque imagery, what people don’t know was that his depictions promulgated feminism and gender fluidity.
In this baroque painting, Magdalena Ventura with her Husband And Son was totally outlandish for the viewers and scandalous to say the least. It featured mild nudity of breastfeeding in public which was a huge announcement for liberation at that time. Also, the art featured Magdalena Ventura donned a full-grown beard with panache, signaling support towards gender fluidity.
His artistic protests against such social norms were often overlooked or went unnoticed much like the above masterpiece. The stern and bold gaze of the Virgin Mother, a celebrated figure, is surely powerful. Also, the masterpiece showed how even such a woman continues to be defined by her purity and for her role as a mother.
Lavinia Fontana was a famous sixteen-century feminist who was considered the first female artists to work independently and outside a royal court or convent in the said male sphere of art. She’s been attributed to have generated multifarious opportunities for female artists throughout Europe due to her fantastic and impactful art.
Fontana became famous for her portraiture work for noble ladies who found security within her to depict them in the most powerful way possible. Her artworks clearly speak volumes of her technical prowess as well as her strong, feminist ideals.
This portrait is clearly futuristic in the sense that it blatantly rejects the shaved female bodies which are considered more aesthetic by society. This portrait emerges as an icon in glorifying the idea of female beauty in the rawest and natural form, repudiating gender norms and hence, is a truly trailblazing artwork.
Anguissola was a revolutionary presence in feminist art, known for her distinctive portrayal of women in her portraits. She’s known for going unconventional with not just artist techniques but also symbols and ideas behind her artworks. She also broke gender norms as she resided as the court painter for around 14 years, excelling at what she loves.
This portrait runs on the same non-traditional lines, rebelling against the said norms of women running in circles only inside the domestic domain. She liked to paint her subjects in idealized positions and informal expressions like in this baroque painting where her sisters seem to play a tough hand at chess.
Chess, a game of strategic thinking and logic, was reserved for only men and it was highly inappropriate for women to indulge in such learned pursuits. The artwork is a classic juxtaposition between the domestic and the professional sphere. She also liked to paint her subjects in formal wear and here too, the women are wearing classic women’s clothes but doing “unwomanly” tasks like playing chess.
The Bottom Line
The Baroque Era was fully immersed in powerful and symbolic imagery of feminist issues which was displayed through the master hands of lauded artists. Women were always portrayed as either the saint or the sinner, trying women to their purity and around male figures which surely planted seeds of rebellion in many. From Anthony van Dyck to Rembrandt’s masterpieces, available on 1st-art-gallery.com, transcended social mores and promulgated gender identity. Works of such artists became pioneering in feminist art, giving voice to real women to narrate their own tales with authority and freedom.