Women in the Renaissance
The Renaissance created a new vision of womanhood and indeed a “New Woman”, proposes Gaia Servadio in this fresh take on Renaissance history. Servadio dates the birth of this development not to the traditionally quoted year of 1492 but to the invention of the printing press in 1456, which made books–and hence education–available to women. Central to her story are the lives of women such as Vittoria Colonna, whose extraordinary mutual love with Michelangelo is told here; Tullia d’Aragona, poet and the best known courtesan of her age, and French poet Louise Labé, who fought battles in male clothes. She follows these new women through the rise–and fall–of the Renaissance in Italy and France, moving northwards to the Low Countries and, in the person of Elizabeth I, to England. They are placed center stage to the Renaissance’s power plays, paintings and architecture, courtesans and popes, music and manners, fashion, food, cosmetics, changing societies and the language of poetry and symbols.
Servadio’s thesis is that the Renaissance which she dates from the invention of the press in the 1450s, to the mid 16th century point when Conter-Reformation and Inquisition made it dangerous to hold enlightened views, was largely influenced by women.
The Spectator, Ian Thomson
As Servadio reminds us in this marvelous study of Renaissance women and their men, Cardinal Bembo had featured in Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, that great Renaissance treatise on how to get on in life….The renaissance was a time when people wanted to enjoy themselves, and it helped to create the independent, sexually confident ‘modern woman’ of today, argues Servadio..While §R women became more masculine, Servadio points out, Renaissance men became more feminine…Renaissance Women remains a wonderfully readable account of a glorious age, Gaia Servadio is to be congratulated on her eye for memorable historical detail and flare for storytelling.