This paper offers a thematic study of how a contemporary female audience may have encountered the direct gaze in Italian religious paintings of the mid- Quattrocento. Specifically it contrasts two works by Fra Angelico (born c. 1387-1400, died 1455) - the publicly viewed San Marco Altarpiece (The Virgin and Child Enthroned with Angels and Saints c. 1438-40) and the privately viewed male-only Madonna and Child with Eight Saints (also known as Madonna delle ombre. c.1450) in the east dormitory corridor of San Marco – and notes the differences in the exemplars who carry the direct gaze within each painting. The paper considers the location and Dominican iconography of these two paintings and then draws on the evidence of the code and conduct books of the time written by men, letters and works written by women, the prevailing literature, the nature of medieval sexuality, and contemporary thinking regarding the nature of the gaze through the disciplines of gender and visual culture, psychology and memory. The thesis of this paper is that, despite the proscriptive texts of the fourteenth century, when a woman encountered the direct gaze of a man in a religious painting, another dialectic was occurring, a possible unintentional, or even intentional, crossing of social codes.
|Translated title of the contribution
|Looking Back: The Transgression Of Social Codes Explored Through The Direct Gaze In Fra Angelico’s San Marco Altarpiece When Compared With Madonna And Child With Eight Saints
|31 - 44
|Number of pages
|St Andrews Journal of Art History and Museum Studies
|Published - 2010