APRIL CONFERENCE: The Matronage of Culture – Women of Art in Early Modern Rome

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Wednesday, 20th April 2016 at 19.30 Hotel Aleph, Rome


The activity of women in producing the Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture in the Renaissance we see around us in Rome – not to mention that which has been lost – was enormous. Art historians have begun to investigate their contributions, or the stamp they impressed more subtly, on the visible fabric of the city.

I begin with Lavinia Fontana’s Minerva Dressing Herself in the Galleria Borghese – not because it is typical, but because it is rare for our topic – a painting of a woman by a woman, with all its pride and paradoxes.
There were few active female artists who contributed to 16-18C Rome – but there were many intelligent and wealthy women who sponsored art, often through their spiritual desires and personal religious interests, or through their repressed intellectual capacities which could only find release in cultural-religious “patronage”.  Vittoria Colonna was one of the former; the women who worked to develop the nunneries of the Quirinale during its sensational real-estate boom were among the latter.

This informal lecture will be merely an introduction to some of the most interesting women of art in Early Modern Rome – a hint of their influence in a very male-dominated society.

Carolyn Smyth (1955) graduated from Vassar College (1976), and took her advanced degrees (MA 1980, Ph.D. 1988) in Philadelphia, at the University of Pennsylvania.

The book based on her dissertation, Correggio’s Frescoes in Parma Cathedral, was published by Princeton Press in 1997, based on her first extended study in Italy thanks to a Fulbright Fellowship. Smyth taught in the USA in Philadelphia (UPenn, Philadelphia College of the Arts, Temple University), at the University of California San Diego, and a tenure-track position at Penn State. Much of the impulse of her work was encouraged by her UPenn assistanceship with Leo Steinberg, as well as her experience as a Fellow At Villa I Tatti (Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence).

Her publications and research cover diverse topics in Early Modern Italian art: particularly Northern Italian religious art by Correggio, il Pordenone, and Titian; and the imagery of Purgatory in the 15-17C  (including, for current research, a study of the 17C church of the Confraternity of the Souls in Purgatory “ad Arca” in Naples). At the moment, while she is on Sabbatical, she is investigating Titian’s portrait of the toddler Clarissa Strozzi, in the context of: Florentine exiles in Venice, concepts of childhood health and education, and the inception of the imagery of noble children in Renaissance Europe.

Professor Smyth has taught at John Cabot University since 1997. She is Professor of Art History, teaching courses on topics from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age, with an emphasis on painting, iconography, church history and theology, and art historical theory from the 18C to contemporary writers.

Registration commences 18.30hrs. Conference 19.30hrs to be followed by our trendy networking cocktail.

 Guest price €25
To register for the conference, please fill out the form below


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(Michelle Bassanesi, PWA Treasurer)



PWA – Professional Women’s Association
IBAN: IT51B 02008 05172 000101928188

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