Between Goddess and Mother: Renaissance and Baroque Views of Women

January 8–February 24, 1991

During the Renaissance and baroque periods, paintings and prints provided a powerful vehicle for propagating the contemporary understanding of women’s bodies as the objects of male delectation and ownership.

Classical goddesses such as Venus, Circe, and Flora, as well as nymphs, muses, and graces, appear in provocative poses and sheer drapery for the first time in great numbers since antiquity alongside seemingly domestic images of women bearing and nursing children. Subjects most often included religious scenes, allegorical representations, and classical myths which were assimilated into the visual language of the Italian Renaissance and the Baroque. Women could thus be cast as both goddess and mother. The prints in the exhibition focus on the complex messages about women’s roles.

The exhibition includes work by Agostino Carracci, Gaetano Stefano Bartolozzi, Stefano Mulinari, and Luca Cambiaso, who reproduced other artists’ work for dissemination to a large public. 

Curator: Suzanne Gerstner, a graduate student intern

The exhibition was funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council.