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Gendered style in Italian art criticism from Michelangelo to Malvasia.

Did the concept of style have gender? Were the styles of particular Renaissance painters considered to have gendered qualities by contemporary critics? Because gender permeated the rhetorical and philological foundations of art criticism, it can provide a useful interpretive lens to examine the critical arsenal of writers on art, their attitudes toward style and the subterranean bias of their language. Feminist art history has grappled with gender more in terms of iconography, biography, or patronage following a social agenda to analyze a misogynist past and to remedy the marginalization of women in modern art historiography.(1) An exceptional study by Elizabeth Cropper in 1976 broached the question of gender in aesthetics by reconstituting a complex history of love and beauty that converged in treatises on beautiful women.(2) The dominant premise of her work, one that is rigorously documented, is that literary and pictorial ideals of feminine beauty were part of a constructed set of beliefs most clearly articulated in treatises on women. Cropper studied the ideal embodiment of feminine beauty in its most natural place - the female body and its adornments of coiffure, jewelry, and clothing - and the too few studies that her work stimulated have maintained this focus on the depicted body or person either in the context of aesthetics or social decorum.(3)

I propose a more oblique approach that locates femininity and masculinity not so much in the depicted bodies of women and men, and still less in their social realities, but in an acculturated set of values that informed the literature of art criticism. Femininity in particular was frequently disembodied in Renaissance criticism and wielded as a rhetorical weapon usually against objectionable art. Gender could be detached from depictions of women or men and located within elements of painting - a pictorial medium, a style of coloring, or coloring itself - that were not inherently gendered but culturally determined to be feminine or masculine. When Michelangelo called oil painting "womanly" or when Malvezzi claimed Titian's early polished style to be "feminine," the manifest meaning can be easily decoded. On the other hand, when Vasari wrote that Correggio's coloring is "soft," the gendered meaning is cloaked since here gender is embedded in the semantic value of the critic's stylistic terminology. A purely formal description such as "the coloring is soft" can be construed differently depending on its diction. Within a range of terms that can denote "soft," the writer had available purely technical terms such as sfumato, more theoretical terms like unito, or tactile terms like morbido. Of these, only morbido shared its semantic field with gendered qualities (feminine, in this case). When morbido is chosen, we may have gendered language, but the critic's intention and its effect on the reader remain equivocal without further context. One purpose of this article is to examine some explicit references to gendered style that can provide a frame of reference for gendered semantics of stylistic description.(4)

Sources from the early fifteenth century (Cennino Cennini) to the mid-seventeenth century (Carlo Cesare Malvasia) and beyond have been used for this study in order to demonstrate that while certain concepts of femininity and masculinity remained stable over time, their deployment as critical topoi changed dramatically. Two thematic areas of constructed femininity recur in this article. In the first two sections, femininity is premised on Aristotelian physiology that construed woman as amorphous and indeterminate. By the sixteenth century these qualities were transferred to woman's psychology (vacillating, unstable), were adduced as evidence for her disordered, reasonless mind, and eventually were used to implicate art without design or proportion (Michelangelo on Flemish and Venetian art). These qualities were also presented positively in treatises on woman as evidence of her transcendent beauty, unbounded by the limits of rule, number, or language, and was eventually adopted by Vasari to help define his concept of style and by Lodovico Dolce to define the essence of Venetian style. Alternatively, the wandering qualities of charming vaghezza marked the seductive powers of woman and certain styles of coloring that attracted the (male) viewer. In the fourth section, the topos of passive woman provides a nexus to interpret Virgilio Malvezzi on Titian's feminine and masculine styles and Malvasia on the Flemish style. How femininity was constructed in the styles of Titian and Flemish painting provide important clues to understanding what styles were thought to be available to women artists, the topic of the final section. When woman ceased to be conceived as man's passive creation or the hypostasis of beauty, as she was most often in Renaissance art, and became instead the creative force, the (male) critic was faced with an anomalous situation that he resolved by applying conventions of femininity.


Prior to 1550, when Vasari published the first edition of his Vite, the concept of style in art literature had not been given gendered attributes. In the preface on modern (sixteenth-century) painting, Vasari equated style with beauty and presented it as the fifth of five interrelated qualities: rule, order, proportion, design, and style (regola, ordine, misura, disegno, and maniera):

Rule in architecture was the way of measuring antiquities, observing the plans of ancient buildings in making modern ones. Order was the distinction of one genus from another so that each body should be assigned its proper members, and the Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Tuscan should not be exchanged one with the other. Proportion in sculpture as in architecture was a universal rule to make the bodies of figures upright with the members being properly arranged; and the same is true in painting. Design was the imitation of the most beautiful things of nature in all figures whether painted or sculpted, and this requires a hand and talent to transfer all that the eye sees, exactly and correctly, to paper, panel, or other plane surface; and the same is true with relief and in sculpture. Style became the most beautiful to have been put into practice by frequently copying the most beautiful things and by combining the finest members, whether hands, heads, bodies, or legs, to produce a figure with as many of these beauties as possible and to apply it in every work and in all of the figures, and this is what is known as a beautiful style.(5)

The first four precepts are means for obtaining commensurate beauty: rule (as the method, modo, of measuring buildings) and order (meaning the classical orders) quantify and classify the parts of architecture and maintain "a distinction between one kind and another." Proportion, design, and style, on the other hand, concern the coherency among the parts. Design and style are virtually synonymous, coexisting as forms of Zeuxian imitation.

Throughout the preface Vasari juxtaposed two kinds of style: the commensurate beauty of Quattrocento art and the ineffable beauty of Cinquecento art. Quattrocento style relied on rule, order, proportion, and design to define the parts and join them into a whole. As rule, order, and proportion suggest, the controlling mechanism was articulate and quantified; style as the expression of beauty could be arranged by number or proportion. In contrast, Cinquecento style was a sublime grace that transcended rule, order, and proportion: "But, although the artist of the second period greatly augmented all of these things mentioned above [regola, ordine, misura, disegno, maniera] in the arts, yet they were not so perfect that they completed the progress to perfection, for they still lacked in their measure [regola, hence 'il modo del misurare'], a freedom that not being of measure was nonetheless guided by measure and could be [outside measure] without creating confusion or breaking the order. . . . In proportion they lacked good judgment, which without measuring the figures invests them with a grace beyond measure in the dimensions chosen."(6)

The structure of five introductory definitions was adopted from Vitruvius's ordinatio, dispositio, eurythmia, symmetria and decor. The relationship between the parts of architecture and painting as defined by Vitruvius and Vasari, veiled as it is by overlapping Renaissance recensions of De architectura, cannot be easily determined without a study that goes well beyond the scope of this article.(7) What is shared by Vasari's and Vitruvius's definitions beyond the obvious architectural evocation of regola and ordine is a concern for unity and coherence. While regola, ordine, and misura may be understood in this respect as simplified redactions of Vitruvius, disegno and maniera stand in a more complicated relation. That a relation existed is suggested by translations of symmetria as disegno.

Nothing in Vasari's preface or the Vitruvian tradition from which it derives is explicitly gendered, and certainly Vasari did not wish his readers to interpret it as gendered. Nevertheless, a source that I want to propose for Vasari's definition of style clearly identified the transcendent beauty of the modern style, and hence ideal style itself, with femininity. Source hunting is a risky business, and few have ventured hypotheses in this area, but a small and telling detail in Firenzuola's Dialogo della bellezza delle donne, intitolato Celso (written in 1542, published in 1548) suggests it to be one of Vasari's sources.(8) The evidence is of great philological simplicity. Firenzuola opens the section on grace and charm (leggiadria) by first defining its common usage: "Grace and charm [leggiadria] are nothing other than . . . an observation of a silent law, as others have said and according to the intent of the word itself, given and promulgated by nature to you women in your movement, comportment, and use of the body as a whole and its particular members, moving with grace, modesty, nobility, measure, and good manners so that no movement and no action would be without rule, mode, measure, or design [regola, modo, misura, disegno]."(9) The qualities of leggiadria that close the sentence (regola, modo, misura, and disegno) are virtually those terms presented in exactly this order by Vasari (in the third preface) to describe the five parts of beauty (regola, ordine, misura, disegno, and maniera). A few paragraphs later Vasari applied these terms in order to describe Leonardo's achievement - "good rule [regola], a better order [ordine], correct proportion [misura], perfect design [disegno], and inspired grace."(10)

The nearly identical diction and the exact sequence of terms in these two sections suggest that Vasari knew Firenzuola's text and adopted it for some specific purpose. There is one minor adjustment in both passages where Firenzuola's modo becomes ordine, but this has little semantic significance: Vasari uses modo and ordine synonymously elsewhere in the Vite; Machiavelli used modo and ordine interchangeably, and the 1557 dictionary by Francesco Alunno defined modo by means of ordine.(11) The fifth element of Leonardo's work, grace, is contained in Firenzuola's definition by leggiadria itself as "the action filled with grace." What was grace (the fifth element) in Leonardo's achievements is style [maniera] in the preliminary definitions of the Quattrocento. (Vasari could substitute grace for style in the Leonardo list because the two were virtually synonymous.)

Many books on the beauty of women were available to Vasari (Franco in 1542, Piccolomini in 1545, Dolce in 1545, Domenichi in 1549(12)), and some of them even discussed feminine beauty as ineffable, but none seem to contain the coded regola, modo, misura, disegno that signals Firenzuola as a probable source. In any case Firenzuola's dialogue was undoubtedly the most famous and influential work in mid-sixteenth-century Florence.(13) His Dialogo della bellezza delle donne would have been readily available to Vasari, having been frequently reissued after its publication in 1548, once in an edition by Lorenzo Torrentino, Vasari's publisher. It might also have been recommended to Vasari by the position of Firenzuola as a member of the Accademia degli Umidi and by his and his family's connections with the Medici. Finally, it could have appealed to Vasari because it emphasized ways that beauty in women and beauty in art are similarly conceived. He describes his methodology as that of the artist, arriving at his ideal notion of woman by a combinatory method of imitation, likened to Zeuxis, that selected the best features of four pseudonymous, but reputedly real, women (Lampiada, Amorrorisca, Selvaggia, and Verdespina). He discusses and illustrates the Vitruvian man inscribed in a square and circle as evidence of his proportionality. Cropper has noted how Firenzuola's constructed beauty, while laying claims to the ideal and normative, also admitted to its elusiveness and to the possibilities of different styles of beauty that derived from the individuality of the writer's/artist's ingegno.(14)

Six qualities of female beauty are defined by Firenzuola: leggiadria, grazia, vaghezza, venusta, aria, and maesta. The first three refer to visible qualities of body and comportment; the last three concern moral qualities and hence spiritual love. In each of the three sections on visible beauty, Firenzuola distinguished the conventions of beauty that identified it with proportion on the one hand, and his understanding of beauty as a transcendent quality that escapes the determinacy of measure on the other. Immediately following the opening sentence on leggiadria quoted above, Firenzuola introduces a dialectic of the ineffable that explicitly disavows itself as a "silent rule" that is "neither known nor produced by reason . . . neither can it be taught in books nor known in general practice."(15) Leggiadria is exemplary, and so Firenzuola points to a certain Lucrezia who "has everything necessary for leggiadria, and therefore she pleases everyone even though her actions perhaps lack some trifling thing according to the measures of those meticulous artists [disegnatori]." For Firenzuola leggiadria cannot be grasped by reason ("it is neither known by reason, nor can it be produced by reason"), and hence it escapes words, the tools of reason (it is a "silent rule"; it is "unwritten"). Grazia and vaghezza are also defined by Firenzuola by their elusiveness. Grace is "that occult way to make a certain union of various parts of the body which we know not how to describe."(16) Its proportions are hidden and defined in no text. Indeed, the beauty of grace transcends proportion, making it possible for a woman who lacks canonical proportions to have grace anyway - "this splendor born from a hidden proportion and from a measure that cannot be found in our books and that we do not know and cannot even imagine. And so it has, as with things that we cannot explain, an 'I don't know what' [non so che]."(17) The indeterminate quality of grace when it appears as the related vaghezza makes the mind wander and desire its beauty. Firenzuola's explanation of vaghezza's etymology - vagare, to wander, and desiderare, to desire - was adopted by Lomazzo to describe beautiful movements and served the Crusca editors for their first edition of the Vocabolario of 1612.(18)

The vagabond qualities of vaghezza, like Firenzuola's grazia, derived ultimately from the Aristotelian conventions of woman as inconstant, vacillating, and unstable.(19) These survived in many forms, none perhaps as mordantly elaborated as Michelangelo Biondo's protracted explanation of amorphous woman as smoke.(20) For Francesco Bocchi, masculine beauty was stable unlike transitory feminine beauty.(21) In the Metaphysics Aristotle attributed to the Pythagoreans a table of opposites that located male and female among other hierarchically-structured dualities: unity/plurality, right/left, odd/even, stable/mutable, determinate/indeterminate and good/evil.(22) Woman was assigned to the sinister, odd, multiple, transitory, and evil side. What Firenzuola did, and he is not unique in this, was to transform a traditional defect into a virtue. What the Aristotelian tradition identified as vague, indeterminate, and unbounded, and hence feminine matter (in contrast to the clear determination or definition of masculine form), Firenzuola adopted to contrary effect. Instead of establishing the defects of women, he finds them to be precisely those qualities that lend her beauty superior to man's. That beauty (which is grace and style) is incommensurate; that it escapes reason, measure, and verbal description undermines the Aristotelian tradition, still alive in the Renaissance, that man as the embodiment of reason was superior to woman who had no reason. Instead woman held a beauty beyond reason that eluded man's verbal net.

The term vaghezza contains the ambivalence of feminine beauty.(23) Thought to be a superficial quality, it was often represented in art criticism as clothing or color that was either devoid of inner meaning or actively concealed meaning.(24) As appearance, vaghezza appealed to the senses and hence to women and the vulgar masses.(25) The following section will show how this tradition was adopted by Gelli, Michelangelo, Vasari, and others to denigrate the public's mistaken infatuation with the colorism of Flemish and Venetian painting. Coexisting was another vaghezza that held it to be a form of grace that could enable the mere labor of a sculptor to touch heaven and a type of delight that did not eclipse instruction (that is, not as the weaker partner of docere/dolcere).(26) These are not two distinct semantic fields for vaghezza, but more than any other writer Firenzuola was able to succinctly combine them and demonstrate their hierarchy and interdependence. It was probably for this reason that the Crusca editors in 1612 quoted his definition of vaghezza as the paradigmatic example that illustrates how the term was used.

Firenzuola plays on two notions of beauty (the proportionate and the ethereal) in a way that might have appealed to Vasari. Donna Lucrezia "lacks some triffling thing [cosellina] according to the measures of those meticulous artists," and yet she has leggiadria. Those "meticulous artists" sound very much like Vasari's version of Quattrocento artists who "lacked that visual judgment that, disregarding measurement, gives the figures . . . a grace that simply cannot be measured." Hence the limiting and normative regola, modo, misura, and disegno are important for Vasari only in a general sense and must be superseded before the true beauty of leggiadria, grazia, and vaghezza could be attained.

Rule was understood by Vasari paradoxically. Artists were not bound by rules, yet their work was ordered by rule; they used measure, yet produced works "beyond measure" ("che eccedesse la misura"). Similarly, design produced things "that appeared between the seen and the unseen" ("fra 'l vedi e non vedi").(27) Modern "talent" goes "beyond" rule, order, and measure (Vasari uses oltre three times). What strikes me about all of these statements is their elusiveness, as if Vasari did not know quite where to place modern rule, order, and design, or, to be more exact, as if now in the sixteenth century they had no particular or constant place. Their defining characteristic seems to be their ineffability. Grace (grazia) is the key term here. Vasari mentions it twelve times in this short preface in relation to sixteenth-century art, but never in relation to fifteenth-century art. In fact, he specifically excludes it from fifteenth-century works, which, as he wrote, "lacked that graceful and sweet ease [quella facilita graziosa e dolce] that appears between the seen and the unseen."

The transcendence of proportion as the basis of beauty in both Firenzuola and Vasari must be understood in relation to a misrepresented tradition that found them to be coextensive. Pietro Bembo states the conventional view thus: "Beauty is nothing other than a grace born from proportion and decorum, and from a harmony of things. . . . Since a body is beautiful because its members adhere to a proportion in relation to each other, so too a soul is beautiful to the extent that its virtues harmonize with each other" (Bembo, 129). Firenzuola devoted several pages to the intellectual history of beauty and noted several. key authors (Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Ficino) who allegedly stand behind this position.(28) By historicizing contemporary attitudes on beauty and assigning to the past an allegiance to the idea of proportion, Firenzuola is able to claim originality for his definition of incommensurate beauty. Actually the rejection of proportion could have been known to Firenzuola from a wide variety of sources, mostly theological, but the most immediate context for his work would have been other treatises on women and love. In Leone Ebreo's Dialoghi d'amore (Rome, 1535, written in 1501) a philosophical tradition of beauty ("cosi molti de li filosofanti l'hanno diffinita") and a more popularizing tradition assigned to an anonymous molti are hypostatized in order to differentiate it from his more transcendent definition of beauty as spiritual grace: "If well considered, beauty, although found in proportionate and harmonized things, will be found to be beyond its proportion."(29) In the Libro della belta e grazia (written between 1543 and 1553), Benedetto Varchi also places in the past an equation of beauty with proportion: "And these [earlier writers] say for the most part that beauty is nothing other than the correct proportion and correspondence of all the parts." His purpose, like Firenzuola's, was to juxtapose the corporeal, commensurate beauty of Aristotle and "others" to his own higher spiritual beauty.(30)

By associating the two levels of beauty with a historical progression in art from the Quattrocento to the Cinquecento, Vasari stands clearly in the overlapping literary traditions on beauty, love, and women that are here represented by Firenzuola, Ebreo, and Varchi. Literature on art offered little in this area. As Vasari defined them, modern artists questioned precisely that tradition of Alberti, Durer, Piero della Francesca, Pacioli, and others who wrote on proportion as the foundation of art. Michelangelo also questioned their work, but not for the same reasons and without a historical structure such as that provided by Vasari.(31)

By adopting Firenzuola's structure of commensurate beauty and ineffable beauty to distinguish the achievements of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century art, Vasari implicitly establishes feminine beauty as art's highest attainment. Although Vasari does make one reference to feminine beauty in his definition of modern style,(32) what is equally striking is the pointed exclusion of two key terms of love and femininity used by Firenzuola: vaghezza and non so che. The quintessentially feminine vaghezza and non so che in Firenzuola's dialogue are embraced by Lodovico Dolce as central to his defense of Venetian painting. They are best known by its effects ("on men" is assumed). Like the effects of woman herself, pictorial beauty defies description and easy classification. It is known best by what it is not, by what it transcends: "For beyond invention, beyond design, beyond variety, and beyond the fact that his works are all supremely moving, one finds in them that element which, according to Pliny, the figures of Apelles possessed, charm, that is, that indefinable something ["quel non so che"] that customarily proves so attractive with painters no less than with poets."(33) As proof of that attraction, Dolce then quotes one of Petrarch's sonnets to Laura, "And in her eyes an indefinable something [non so che] to lighten night in a trice and darken day."(34) In a later passage Dolce comments that the paintings of Parmigianino have a certain charm (vaghezza) that "makes whoever looks at them fall in love."(35)

Non so che, the "certain something" that made Petrarch fall in love with Laura and attracted Dolce to Titian and Parmigianino, derives from the language of love that presents lovers as not simply inarticulate but as irrational and blind.(36) In I libri della famiglia Alberti describes non so che as "a certain something for which I cannot find a name, which attracts men and makes them love one person more than another."(37) From the point of view of man writing about woman, falling in love is often described as succumbing to mysterious charms and powers that transfer to the object of love (the woman) the experience of the lover.(38) Some sixteenth-century writers transferred the ineffable attraction of the beloved to the concept of beauty as Firenzuola did in his identification of vaghezza as one of six qualities of beauty. Firenzuola celebrated leggiadria, grazia, and vaghezza for their elusiveness. These terms embodied un non so che or indeterminate beauty in the same way as the etymology of vaghezza did. Vaghezza makes the mind wander (vagare) and frees it to desire sensible beauty (desiderare). Hence it is understood as a vagabond and attractive beauty, a charm.

Dolce's use of non so che as the ineffable beauty of Petrarch's Laura and Venetian art, and his use of vaghezza as the quality that enamors, rely on the shared attributes of corporeal attractiveness and indeterminacy. The unstable qualities of vaghezza derived from traditional notions of woman as inconstant and vacillating. Firenzuola and Dolce employed a strategy of inversion by transforming a traditional defect into a virtue. What the Aristotelian tradition identified as vague, indeterminate, and unbounded, Dolce and Firenzuola adopted as evidence of woman's transcendent beauty. From woman's assumed lack of reason and proportion they found qualities that lent her beauty superior to man's. In contrast, the next section will show how Cennini and Michelangelo deployed the supposed lack of proportion or sense of proportion (reason) as evidence of artistic inferiority. For Firenzuola and Dolce, woman and depicted beauty cannot be understood or contained by reason or proportion. For Cennini and Michelangelo, a woman without proportion is merely an inferior being.


Now let me refocus the opening question "Does the concept of style have gender?" and ask about the gendered styles of individual artists and regional schools. That these are two quite separate issues can be illustrated with one revealing question: Why would Vasari define ideal style in relation to feminine beauty and yet promote Michelangelo, the most masculine of all artists, as the perfection of art? Style as a concept can be feminine, and yet when it came to the most perfect practiced style, Michelangelo's, Vasari chose one that is ardito, bravo, erculeo, fiero, forte, franco, risoluto, and robusto, that is, one that is described only with male attributes.(39) Raphael, whose grazia and leggiadria most perfectly embodied the feminine qualities of beauty, was cast by Vasari as a follower of Michelangelo (a contention that has been actively disputed into this century).(40) The answer must lie somewhere in Vasari's concept of practiced style as an extension of the artist's character. Style in art criticism was inherently gendered, although rarely acknowledged to be so. Considered as a signature of the artist that refers more to the character of the artist than the subject portrayed, style was viewed (much as it is today in popularizing art history) as a self-revealing accent pointing toward its creator and drawing attention away from the invention and illusion of the scene depicted. Style was ostensibly rooted in the subject, as poetic or architectural styles were understood to be, but more often it was interpreted as a sign of artistic quality or an individuating attribute that referred less to the subject than to the artist. The biographical schema of Vasari's Lives continually reinforce the self-reflexivity of style by presenting narrative as artistic parable: Cruel Castagno, who first painted with a knife and ended Domenico Veneziano's life with lead weights, paints fierce and strongly delineated figures; Parri Spinelli, traumatized by muggery, ceases to paint his figures upright and shows them instead as shying away to one side. If style is the expression of character, then masculinity would invoke success more readily than femininity, if, that is, you were a Renaissance man writing about a male painter. Femininity was desirable when attached to an appropriate subject or depicted body, but it raised problems when it came to be interpreted as a stylistic attribute and hence as a sign of the artist's character.

How, then, were the styles of regional schools and artists gendered? What qualities were attached to them in order to make them masculine or feminine? It seems almost too apt that Michelangelo, the artist who endowed women with muscles, came to be identified most closely with the polemical use of woman as a metaphor for artistic inferiority. According to Francisco da Hollanda, Michelangelo believed that Flemish art, which is done "without reason or art, without symmetry or proportion," could only appeal to people without "a sense of proportion." These people were women, monks, and nuns. According to Vasari, Michelangelo called oil painting a medium for women and laggards. By their accounts, Michelangelo applied common social constructs of woman as unreasoned and passive to art that he did not like (Flemish and Venetian painting in particular). Having no corroborative evidence from Michelangelo's own hand, and finding his views so deeply embedded in different literary genres by different writers, we incur considerable risks by identifying Vasari's and Hollanda's views of Michelangelo with Michelangelo's own views. Marco Boschini recognized Vasari's creation of "Michelangelo" when he tried to separate the artist from his biographer. "Vasari has Michelangelo say," Boschini wrote, as if Michelangelo were a character in Vasari's drama.(41) That Boschini's purpose was to deflate "Michelangelo's" criticism of Venetian painting does not compromise his insight. Scholars usually take Hollanda and Vasari to be completely reliable witnesses.(42) The evidence is sufficiently conflicting, and the temptation to hear the authentic thoughts of Michelangelo in conversation with friends is too great, for us to securely excavate the "real" Michelangelo from his reporters. Since my purpose is not to attempt such an extrication, I will be referring to a historically-constructed Michelangelo that bears his name.

The first source for Michelangelo's use of woman for stylistic criticism is found in Francesco da Hollanda's Tractado de Pintura antigua (written in Portuguese between 1547 and 1549). The "Four Dialogues" reputedly record actual conversations with Michelangelo in Rome that Hollanda witnessed between 1538 and 1540. When Vittoria Colonna inquired about Flemish painting, which she found to be "very devout," Michelangelo responded: "Flemish painting will please the devout better than any painting in Italy. . . It will appeal to women, especially very old and very young women, and also to monks and nuns and to certain noblemen who have no sense of true harmony. In Flanders they paint, with a view to deceiving sensual vision. . . . They paint fabrics and masonry, the green grass of the fields, the shadows of trees, and rivers and bridges, which they call landscapes, with many figures on this side and that. And all this, though it pleases some persons, is done without reason or art, without symmetry or proportion, without skillful selection or boldness and finally, without substance or vigor."(43) The rhetorical effect of this passage depends on an understanding that viewers are drawn to qualities in art that somehow mirror their own personal qualities, or as Leonardo described responses in life and art, "he who falls in love, naturally loves things similar to himself."(44) Flemish art is "done without reason or art, without symmetry or proportion," and so naturally it appeals to viewers with "no sense of true harmony" and, by extension, with no reason. These viewers look at paintings with a "sensual vision" and so are drawn to an art that is described by the purely visible and natural. The criticism of Flemish painting through the shortcomings of its fans is constructed on the conventional juxtaposition of reason and sense, imitation ("skillful selection") and copying, the determinate and the transitory (shadows of trees).

To identify the appreciation of paintings "without reason or art" with the sex that was culturally deprived of reason (and hence who would find nothing missing in an art without proportion or reason) reasserted the misogynist topos of the reasonless woman who judges things only through her eyes.(45) This view of woman became a matter of intense debate and reevaluation during the Renaissance.(46) As a heuristic device to illustrate just how conflicted was the subject, I propose to reduce a complex and fluid situation to one example, that great commonplace book Castiglione's Courtier. Castiglione gives the role of misogynist spokesman to Gaspare Pallavicino, a sickly twenty-one year old from Piacenza. After making various chauvinist declarations without much nuance or elucidation, Pallavicino invokes his lady listeners to justify his simplicity and brevity: "I do not wish us to go into such subtleties because these ladies would not understand us; and though I were to refute you [Giuliano de' Medici speaking on behalf of women] with excellent arguments, they would still think that I was wrong, or pretend to at least."(47) Woman, impervious to reason, cannot be convinced by masculine discourse; or even if she were, she would dissimulate. When Castiglione's Giuliano argues that "where a man's intellect can penetrate, so along with it can a woman's," we hear the more progressive view, certainly not unique to Castiglione, that endows woman with rational faculties equal to man's.(48) With Giuliano we seem to experience a significant shift in traditional values, yet his repeated exertions to reclaim rationality for woman tell us how deeply rooted and widely held those beliefs were. Castiglione intends us to identify his views with those of Giuliano de' Medici, who is wealthier, more eloquent, and politically more powerful than Pallavicino. Yet inadvertently Castiglione indicates his complicity with Pallavicino by keeping the women of his dialogue silent on this weighty matter. Silence, modesty, and patience are traditional feminine virtues (imposed by man on woman for his own needs) that Castiglione's women fully manifest.(49)

The belief in woman as the reasonless sex made its first appearance in Italian art literature in Cennino Cennini's Libro dell'Arte, a studio manual written in about 1395 for apprenticed painters. "Take note," he writes, "that . . . I will give you the exact proportion [misura] of a man. Those of a woman I will disregard, for she does not have any perfect proportion [misura]."(50) A detailed recipe of manly proportion then follows. It is a crude, if convenient, system of design that imposes an artificial module (the face) over all parts of the body: "From the pit of the throat to that of the chest or stomach, one face. From the stomach to the navel, one face. From the navel to the thigh joint, one face. From the thigh to the knee, two faces."(51) Another modular system prevails in the face itself. Cennini does not specify why woman, unlike men, have no perfect proportion, but his usage of the topos suggests that he had some knowledge of the Aristotelian topos of masculine form and feminine matter, form having a rational order of proportion and matter having none. To have no perfect proportion was much the same as to have no reason, as Cennini notes in the concluding sentences of this chapter. "I will not tell you about the irrational animals, because you will never discover any system of proportion [misura] in them. Copy them and draw as much as you can from nature, and you will achieve good practice in this respect."(52) Even an apprentice could solve this simple syllogism: If "irrational animals" have no proportion, and if women have no perfect proportion, then women must be imperfectly rational.

Since unreasoned woman has no set proportion, Cennini advised his apprentices to draw her also from the varied examples found in nature. To work from nature for Cennino was not necessarily to be defective, but in comparison to the systematic depiction of man by module, it was a cumbersome process subject to the vagaries of the individual model. The identification of woman with accidental and mutable nature became a potent metaphor in the hands of Michelangelo to criticize naturalist painting and probably depends on the enduring metaphor of Mother Nature.(53) Cennino lacked Michelangelo's rhetorical sophistication, but the literary context of an artistic cookbook should not disguise its prejudicial nature. Cennini did much more than pronounce on woman's inferiority: he reveals how prevailing opinion about women has shaped the artistic practice of his time. His preconceptions seem to have denied him the opportunity to inquire into the proportion of women and forced upon him a different method of depiction. Thus his practice as a painter in some ways must have fulfilled his beliefs in gender.

Women have no perfect proportion; women have no sense of proportion. Cennini located disproportion in women's bodies; Michelangelo found it in their cognitive faculties. The intervening century made a reiteration of Cennini impossible. Neoplatonic discussions of beauty and the literature on beautiful women that they helped shape had so completely redefined the concept of feminine beauty that any statement about a woman's body lacking proportion would have seemed as ludicrous then as it does now. The shift from proportion that is measurable (or not) in the human figure to a sense of proportion held (or not) internally by the viewer characterized for Vasari the difference between fifteenth- and sixteenth-century art. Vasari accurately noted Quattrocento concern for commensurate proportion as a means to design or analyze a figure. (One need only think of Alberti, Piero, and Durer to confirm Vasari's view.) By contrast, Cinquecento artists had internalized proportion so that, for example, Michelangelo no longer needed instruments of measure since, as everyone knew, he had "compasses in his eyes."(54)

The shift from body to viewer also illuminates an increasingly popular topic in Cinquecento art literature where the response of the viewer serves to establish the quality of art. Vasari has the people run like crazy ("i popoli corsero come matti") to see the new but temporary beauties of Perugino's and Francia's pretty colors (colori vaghi).(55) Writing in a tradition that Petrarch revived and popularized, Armenini and Lomazzo also attributed to the ignorant a taste for pretty colors (again, described as vaghi) that can be appreciated with the "external senses."(56) According to Agucchi, the late Mannerists "were satisfied to feed the eyes of the ignorant with the loveliness [vaghezza] of colors and rich vestments." As evidence of Caravaggio's misbegotten popularity, Baglione connects his naturalism and colorism to his audience (il vulgo). Sebastiano Serlio finds modern architects pandering to popular taste with the architectural equivalent of color and drapery: carved reliefs and other ornament.(57)

Michelangelo deployed women to similar effect by identifying their attraction to color (green grass) and other superficial or transitory qualities (the shadows of trees and clothing). When Giovanni Battista Gelli defined two opposing types of painting in his Lettura terza sopra lo Inferno di Dante (Florence, 1556), he also chose Michelangelo and the Flemish.(58) Michelangelo "instructs" and rivals nature "with the poses and foreshortenings of figures." Flemish painting "pleases" and "delights" by means of its color and landscape, "by the charm [vaghezza] of colors and by the variety of landscapes." Here Gelli uses vaghezza much as Vasari, Pino, Armenini, Sorte, and Lomazzo did, to indicate the baser response to painting. Gelli's vaghezza contains the qualities that Hollanda chose to list as exemplary objects, places, and effects. Of these, color and clothing carry specific rhetorical values that were identified with sophistry. Because the ornaments of style were thought to "cloth" or "adorn" the body of invention just as color adorned the subject in painting, it was deemed to be superficial and external to meaning; apprehended by the senses, these rhetorical colors "flattered" or "seduced" the simple more often than the learned.(59)

Because reasonless woman acted more by sense than intellect, she was often called a slave of jewelry, cosmetics, and other superficial ornaments that were thought to enhance physical beauty.(60) In ancient rhetoric, the dangers of excessive ornamentation were exemplified by women who relied on cosmetics to seduce the viewer into mistaking appearance for substance. According to Quintilian good ornament that adds sublimity and splendor to speech is "bold, manly and chaste" in contrast to perjured ornament which has an "effeminate smoothness and the false hues derived from artificial dyes." The first "glows with health and vigor" and has "a healthy complexion" that comes from a good circulation system; enhanced beauty, on the other hand, comes from an "effeminate use of depilatories and cosmetics."(61) The critique of effeminate ornament in ancient rhetoric, much like Renaissance critiques of cosmetics, presupposed a wily woman gifted in the art of coloring and a credulous viewer who will mistake appearance for reality. Michelangelo in his comments on Flemish painting made woman into that deceived viewer thereby transferring the appeal of cosmetics to the user herself. Paolo Pino also cast woman into this role of the artless viewer in telling the story of a mother unhappy with a brown stain (macchia) on her daughter's portrait.(62) Confronting the painter with her daughter and his rendition of her, she insists that her daughter's face has no such stain not realizing that the macchia was intended as a shadow. This literal-minded woman could recognize only brown pigment and lacked the sophistication to read it as illusion or artifice.

When Michelangelo deprived Flemish art of reason, art, symmetry, and proportion, he adduced as proof the appeal of its landscapes and draperies to women. Women look at Flemish paintings with a "sensual vision"; they are satisfied with appearances instead of the "substances" that the painting lacks. Firenzuola and Vasari employed woman's lack of reason and proportion, but construed it positively as evidence of their transcendent beauty. For them, woman and depicted beauty cannot be understood or contained by reason or proportion. For Cennini and Michelangelo, lack of proportion or a sense of proportion (reason) was evidence of artistic inferiority. The femininity of Flemish art (or, to be more precise, the feminine appeal) presumes the masculinity of Italian art. Michelangelo does not state this directly, but only by means of the attributes given to Italian art: reason, proportion, boldness, substance, vigor. All would have been construed as masculine. Reason and proportion in particular were identified with disegno and required many manly things: knowledge of anatomy and proportion, intensive study of ancient sculpture, an orderly memory, an ability to create divine images just as God the Father did. Color, on the other hand, adhered to the surface of things and appealed to the senses and to the ignorant. Coloring could not be taught by art or precept but was practiced by instinct and natural talent.

Both Hollanda and Gelli defined Flemish painting as feminine, either explicitly by the class of viewers it appeals to or implicitly by the stylistic quality of vaghezza that is given to its colors. One year after Gelli's Lettura terza, Lodovico Dolce adopted the juxtaposition of Michelangelo/Dante and Flemish painting/Petrarch by substituting Raphael (as a surrogate for Venetian painting) for the Flemish.(63) He did so by putting Gelli's views into the mouth of "Fabrini" who, like Gelli, was a Florentine philologist and Michelangelo advocate; unlike Gelli, "Fabrini" was eventually converted to a Venetian view by "Aretino." What Dolce found similar in Venetian and Flemish painting - its sensuality, colorism, and naturalism - made the adaptation of Gelli easy. Both Venetian and Flemish painting were the "other" from the Florentine view of "Fabrini," Gelli, and Michelangelo; both lacked design and were tainted with femininity. For them, feminine style was foreign. Just as the Asiatic style was feminine from the Hellenic view, Venetian and Flemish painting lacked the "normality" of domestic usage, being the "other" or "oltramontano" from Michelangelo's peninsular view or from Hollanda's Italophile view.

The femininity attributed to Venetian painting provides an interesting perspective on one of the great critical debates of the Cinquecento that sought to compare the properties and relative values of disegno and colorito. Michelangelo's views on Venetian painting, although mediated by Vasari in a first-hand account, are well known from his meeting with Titian in Rome in 1545. Vasari accompanied his friend to see Titian at work in the Belvedere and recorded how they viewed the Danae (Naples, Capodimonte), or, to be more precise, a painting of "a nude woman representing Danae." According to Michelangelo: "It is a shame that in Venice they never learned to design [disegnare] well from the beginning and that those painters did not have more order [modo] in their studies. For the truth was . . . that if Titian had been assisted by art and design [arte, disegno] as much as he had by nature . . . then no one could achieve more or work better."(64) What Venetian painters lacked was nearly identical to the failings of Flemish art according to Hollanda's Michelangelo: order, art, and design (which contained proportion as one of its principal parts). Unlike the women who love Flemish art, Michelangelo, that most masculine of artists, looked at a Venetian woman fully exposed to his gaze and found her lacking. It was assumed that Michelangelo's "grand style, Herculean and robust" (to use Bellori's phrase) was the correct point of reference to look at a nude Venetian woman.(65) Because Titian copied nature indiscriminately, and copied women in particular as Vincenzo Danti noted in 1567, it may be concluded that he painted women the way women viewed paintings.(66)


The genealogy of oil was understood by Vasari as a Flemish inheritance transmitted to Venice by Antonello da Messina and nurtured by Venetian painters. He took this history to be accurate, but this did not restrain him from providing an alternate, fictional genealogy wrapped into the Venetian-Florentine contest for artistic superiority. The absorption of Venetian oil and a foreshadowed view of Florentine conquest is told in a wonderful apologue where Domenico Veneziano brings the secrets of oil painting from Venice to Florence, teaches it to Andrea del Castagno, and afterwards is killed by Castagno.(67) The tragic and entirely fictional death of Veneziano unfolds one evening when music-loving Veneziano takes his lute to serenade his lover and is met by a murderous Castagno who swings his lead weights and simultaneously ruptures Veneziano's stomach (the cause of death) and the belly of his lute. Vasari did not condone Castagno's violence, but then again Veneziano is presented as an abjectly naive victim lacking insight into Castagno's true character. Veneziano's trusting gullibility, like Titian's choice of subject at the Belvedere (a passive woman deceived by man), is rendered somewhat effeminate lake his native city. Venice was an easy target. Venice and women were linked on a physiological-metaphorical level because women were thought to be constitutionally more humid than men. Venice and Venus, almost homonymic as Venezia and Venere, were both born from the sea. Usually Venice was cast as voluptuary - "a soft, effeminate city" according to James Howell - but historians have recently identified Venice also as a city whose legendary freedom nurtured feminist sentiment.(68)

The Venetian origins of oil provide a crucial context for Michelangelo's pronouncement on the femininity of oil painting. "Oil painting is a woman's art and only fit for lazy, well-to-do people like Fra Sebastiano.(69) Michelangelo's statement was repeated without comment by Lomazzo in 1590 and Pier Francesco Mola in 1664 as if oil painting really were feminine.(70) When Boschini turned to it in his sustained polemic with Vasari (La Carta del navegar pitoresco, Venice, 1660), he understood it correctly as denigrating Venetian painting and its favored medium: "Thus [Vasari] so esteemed painting in fresco that he had Michelangelo say that painting in oil was the occupation of poltroons."(71) Sebastiano del Piombo had convinced Clement VII that the Last Judgment should be done in oils and had even prepared the border accordingly. Sebastiano's presumption to impose oil on the master of fresco so angered Michelangelo that their long friendship ended, and according to Vasari "Michelangelo never forgave Sebastiano for the injury which he thought had been done to him." Michelangelo knew exactly where Sebastiano's vulnerabilities lay. As a Venetian transplant, he had never mastered the art of design (according to Vasari's Tuscan bias), and consequently he relied on Michelangelo to provide him with drawings. He was, like a woman, placed in a subservient position to the more knowledgeable master. The relation of Sebastiano to Michelangelo or color to design in Vasari's version was given gender by Guercino a century later as creative man and passive woman.(72) In his Painting and Design, "Painting" is depicted as a woman who transposes into color the drawing held by a bearded "Design" [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. She enacts the subservient social status of woman who cannot conceive without man's invention but can only give body to his ideas. Guido Reni also renders "Painting" and hence color as a submissive woman protected and possessed by the embrace of a male "Design" in his Painting and Design.(73) She is "more docile, more amenable to suggestion," as Giovanni Battista Passeri observed a few years later of women artists.(74) Docility also figures into Michelangelo's apothegm by referring to Sebastiano's sinecure bestowed by Clement VII, which in Vasari's words "rendered the industrious Sebastiano indolent." Thus in order to attack Sebastiano as a member of the idle rich, Michelangelo chose a misogynist commonplace, the idleness of woman, to emasculate his former friend.

Was oil feminine only because lazy Sebastiano used it, or were there formal attributes of the medium itself that made it womanly? In the technical preface to his Lives, Vasari assigned to oil painting a particular style ("questa maniera di colorire") and inherent formal properties traditionally deemed to be feminine: "This style of coloring [with oil] kindles the pigments so that nothing else is needed except diligence and love because the oil in itself renders the coloring softer, sweeter, and more delicate and makes it easier to attain a unified and sfumato style than the other media especially fresco."(75) None of the other pictorial media discussed by Vasari had an inherent style, which is to say, none contained inherent qualities ("the oil in itself") that were not dependent on the artist. These qualities, identified as soft (morbido), sweet (dolce) and delicate (delicato), union (unione) and sfumato, were often discussed in conjunction with each other in sixteenth-century art criticism as if they belonged to a single category.(76)

The gender of sweet, soft, and delicate coloring can be readily illustrated by the subjects that it was most often attached to: the Annunciation, Visitation, Purification of the Virgin, Mary Magdalen, and Andromeda.(77) Lodovico Dolce uses the terms dolce, morbido, and delicato to distinguish the soft androgyny of Ganymede from the muscular and pure masculinity of Sampson.(78) Armenini advised painters who wished to represent a virgin saint with an angelic expression to color her in a soft and blended style ("morbida e pastosa").(79) Softness in coloring and light (morbidezza) refers to a smooth or liquid blending of hues or tones so that the parts are submerged into a whole just as an ink wash blurs the penned lines.(80) Sweet (dolce) shadows are shallow and softly blurred into the lights to produce a kind of pale, diaphanous light.(81) Sfumato is the best known type of sweet and delicate chiaroscuro.(82) Dolcezza can also be understood by its masculine other: forza of chiaroscuro creates relief and separates figures; dolcezza flattens and unifies.(83) The forza of shadows diminishes with the dolcezza of light.(84) At least twice Vasari contrasted dolcezza with gagliardia, another active, vigorous term.(85) For sixteenth-century writers, sweet colors and shadows were most commonly found in the paintings of Andrea del Sarto, but occasionally in the work of Perugino, Francia, Leonardo, Giorgione, Raphael, Albertinelli, and Pontormo (just after he left Sarto's studio).(86) Michelangelo, in contrast, lacked sweetness and delicacy, at least according to Vasari.(87) Delicate painters from the Cinquecento perspective included Bernardo Luini, Giorgione, and Barocci.(88)

What we find in Vasari's gendered vocabulary of the oil medium is a covert, and perhaps unwitting, declaration of its femininity. Where Michelangelo openly declares oil painting to be inferior because it is feminine, Vasari submerges the same male bias into his language and allows his vocabulary to silently carry those sentiments. The context of a technical treatise is deprived of the social circumstances that imbue biography with morality. Technique would seem to lack a rhetoric, and yet by diction and the semantics of his vocabulary Vasari imbues technique with ethical value.

If oil is feminine, then Michelangelo's chosen technique of fresco must be masculine. In the chapter on fresco Vasari writes: "There is needed in fresco a hand that is dextrous, resolute and rapid [una mano destra, resoluta e veloce], but most of all a sound and perfect judgment because while the wall's wet the colors show up in one way, and afterwards when dry, they appear different. . . . Many artists excel in the other techniques, that is, in oil or in tempera, but in fresco they do not succeed, fresco being truly the most virile, most certain, most resolute, and most durable of all the methods [il piu virile, piu sicuro, piu resoluto, e durabile]."(89) Beyond the explicit statement that fresco is manly, we find that its other attributes are also masculine - speed, durability, resolution - and all associated with Michelangelo (durability, only in the metaphorical sense). Fresco is unforgiving; it demands decisiveness and prompt action, in other words capacities conventionally denied to women.

As presented in Vasari's technical preface, oil and fresco secure different roles for the painter. Fresco requires mastery, i.e. active manipulation of the artist in certain manly ways. Oil, on the other hand, contains qualities in itself that only require the artist to be obedient and compliant (diligente, con amore). Oil allows the artist to adopt a more passive role since the oil, as it were, speaks for itself. In terms of the techniques themselves, this is mostly nonsense. What we have instead is a rhetoric of pictorial techniques that pivots around the Aristotelian definition of masculine form as an active principle and feminine matter that is passively shaped.


Seventeenth-century criticism transformed themes of gender in various ways without, however, losing the critical bias against femininity of style. Pietro Testa tried to reconcile the polemical semantics of gender that served as an underpinning of the disegno-colorito debate, first by limiting it historically to the mid-sixteenth century and second by substituting metaphors of confrontation with one of collaboration. In a report from an imaginary Parnassus, he has "Giulio Romano" describe the differences between disegno and colorito as a battle of the sexes where, in his words, "one side or the other" must be "weakened and damaged." "Painting [color] is feminine and Design is masculine; often wanting to unite them, we see one side or the other weakened and damaged. And here one must boldly stand up against those who seek to delight the sense with colors and make design the servant of a most vile little woman called Painting [color]."(90) "Giulio Romano" in Testa's version was a design chauvinist like other Romans, particularly theoretically-minded Romans. "Romano" feared the power of feminine color and rallies the male troops to "stand up boldly" against the "most vile little woman" of color who hopes to ensnare man in an unnatural relation of inferiority and servitude. The weapon of color is that attributed to all women: the ability to delight the senses.(91) What Testa proposed was an ideal solution, with "Raphael" speaking for Testa, where design and color were reconciled as a marriage rather than rendered as a battle. However Testa's metaphor of marriage revealed more than he intended about how enduring the assumed superiority of masculine design was since the union of design and color was predicated on unequal partners, like a Renaissance marriage. And in many ways, color in the seventeenth century continued to be endowed with feminine sex appeal and described as "a beautiful enchantress" or as being "full of charm and magic."(92)

Rather than a shift in gender value such as that ventured by Testa, one finds more often in the seventeenth century that the place of discussion has moved to descriptions of light, color, and the application of pigment. The growth of an articulate visual literacy manifested by a broader and more versatile critical language opened new possibilities to differentiate and individualize pictorial styles. Inevitably gender comprised one of several semantic fields that gradually allowed a formal, nonfigural appreciation of painting. This can be exemplified by the convergence of critical opinion on Luca Mombello, an undistinguished follower of Moretto. Three texts published between 1694 and 1704 claim that the mature Mombello abandoned the paragon of Moretto's style and adopted in its place one that was calculated to please women and nuns. Leonardo Cozzando, in the popularizing history Vago, e curioso ristretto profano e sacro dell'historia Bresciana (Brescia, 1694), initiated this view of Mombello by writing: "And if he had not corrupted his first style to become the glossy and polished way of working so loved by the nuns . . . he would have succeeded to be an excellent painter. But [his work] degenerated into an almost base and vile miniature."(93) Ten years later Pellegrino Antonio Orlandi commented on this corruption of style from "his first strong and charged style" to an "almost delicate and glossy" style that he knew would please the nuns with its sweetness.(94) To reframe his comments into terms of gender, Mombello abandoned the attributes of strength for feminine ones. The appeal of Mombello's later style to women was stated explicitly in the 1700 guidebook to Brescia by Giulio Antonio Averoldo: "The last altarpiece will possibly please the female sex since (one will say) it maintains lively colors, it is sweet, it is polished."(95) The proximity of women and nuns as ignorant viewers illustrates the stability of opinion that allowed Michelangelo to deploy them against Flemish painting. What has not survived in these examples are the parts of painting found to be defective. Michelangelo identified intellectual properties traditionally associated with design, and while he refers to the sensual appeal of color for women, he does not mention what formal properties the Flemish style of coloring had. In contrast Cozzando, Orlandi, and Averoldo discuss the specific attributes of Mombello's coloring and technique. They agree that Mombello's corrupted style is highly finished: lisciato, politezza, miniatura, dolcezza and minuto. All three use lisciato or liscio, which can mean glossy or polished, but would have been better known to the general reader as cosmetics and glossy effects of applied color to women's skin.

Why were lacquered surfaces and high finish conceived as feminine? In the following section, I will explore the possibility that disguising the artistic act of brushing behind a smooth surface rendered it passive and silent, like women were supposed to be. Equally important, the pellucid surface of high polish was understood as a technique of concealment that could be identified with woman's cosmetic disguise (lisciato). In using lisciato to describe a smooth, highly finished surface of color, Cozzando, Orlandi, and Averoldo borrowed from the language of cosmetics (liscio is makeup) the technical meaning of applied color that creates a second finer and glossier skin.(96) The technique itself, whether cosmetic or pictorial, requires patience, which was one of the most stable female virtues.(97) Like cosmetics, a moral dimension was frequently attached to artistic techniques described as lisciato. Vasari credited the vulgar with a taste for "external, apparent delicacy" and "smooth and polished exterior."(98) Similarly, polished speech was considered as a sophist's trick intended to mask the truth with blandishments to the ear.(99)

The borrowing of cosmetic gloss (liscio) to describe the polished surface of paintings that appeal to women characterizes other seventeenth-century texts that identify high pictorial finish as feminine. According to Ferrante Carli, poet, collector and defamer of Marino, Guido Reni made his paintings "womanly, Flemish, washed out and without force" ("da donna, fiaminga, slavata, senza forza").(100) We do not have these terms directly from CarIi, but as reported by Carlo Cesare Malvasia, a conscientious biographer and archivist. The description of Reni's feminine style sounds very much like Malvasia's own account of Reni's first teacher, the Flemish expatriot Denijs Calvaert. In a draft of the Felsina pittrice Malvasia called Calvaert's style "licked, flaccid and womanly" ("leccata, fiacca, da donna"); he omitted "flaccid and womanly" in the published version of 1678.(101) The formal attributes of femininity are remarkably similar in Carli and Malvasia. The "weakness" of Calvaert and Reni (fiacca, senza forza) probably refers to the quality of light which is, in Carli's account, washed out (slavata). What they lack - senza forza - is a dynamic, animating tension of strongly contrasted light and shadow, in other words, a strong masculine style.

The identification of women with Flemish painting, famous in the seventeenth century for its transparent surface and detailed form of naturalism, seems to be a continuation of Michelangelo's view. It would be convenient for us to assume that Michelangelo had in mind a smooth surface and meticulously wrought images when he criticized Flemish painting as appealing to women, but actually he mentions nothing about technique. Instead he seems more interested in other, higher things like art, reason, and proportion. Carli and Malvasia, however, were certainly describing technique, particularly a technique that eliminates most traces of brushwork. "Licked" (leccato) is one of the most graphic evocations of a clean, polished surface yet was rarely used favorably. Boschini used leccato in its literal sense and imagined unnamed foreign naturalists licking their paintings clean with their tongues.(102) Malvasia was particularly fond of "licked" as a term of abuse. Giacomo Cavedoni "censured excessive finish, licking, and diligence."(103) Baldassare Aloisi succeeded because he avoided making his portraits "too licked and finished."(104) Guido Reni imbibed as a youth from Calvaert's "style, just too stylish, licked and foreign [oltramontana]."(105) Caravaggio disliked Reni's style in Rome, that is Reni at his most Caravag-gesque: "He slandered it with great freedom, calling it licked and completely fantastic."(106)

The versions of feminine Flemish painting by Carli and Malvasia and Michelangelo's version attest to the semantic fixity of woman as a critical value. They also illustrate the continuing use of woman to devalue foreign art. Just as interesting are their differences, exemplifying as they do how much had changed in art criticism over the course of a century. Michelangelo defined feminine qualities of Flemish painting in philosophical or theoretical terms (as an absence of reason, proportion, substance, and so on). CarIi, Malvasia, and Averoldo defined gendered style more in terms of its formal properties of light, color, and brushwork. They tell us nothing about the objects or figures that are represented in these styles. The feminine styles are characteristic of the artists, not embodied in the form of a particular figure or subject. A related change can be observed in Vasari's rendition of the style of oil. What was implicitly feminine for Vasari in oil became for Carli and Malvasia explicitly feminine in the particular technique deliberately adopted by Calvaert and Reni in applying oil pigment. In other words, the quality of femininity shifted from the material of oil to the artistic act.

In the texts by Carli, Malvasia, and Averoldo, feminine finish is discussed without reference to its affective properties on the viewer nor to its masculine counterpart, which may be assumed to exist but is not made articulate. These issues are discussed by Virgilio Malvezzi, a leading Bolognese Stoic historian known to art historians mostly for his fine collection of paintings.(107) To exemplify two styles of historiography - the Laconic and the Asiatic - Malvezzi turned to Titian in the preface to the Considerationi con oc-casione d'alcuni luoghi delle rite d'Alcibiade e di Coriolano (Bologna, 1648):

Titian, perhaps the most famous of painters, and certainly among the most famous, painted at times with so many and such diligent brushstrokes that it almost seemed as if he wished to make each and every hair countable; and at times he was content to rough in his paintings with few and very rough strokes [di pocchi, e rozzissimi colpi]. The intelligent observer of such diverse styles will recognize in the one the charm of the feminine [ii vago della femina], in the other robust masculinity [il robusto maschile]. The former will be given passing praise; the latter will hold one fast in admiring contemplation: one will feel oneself gently attracted by the delicate, violently seized upon by the crude.(108)

This passage unites two dominant aspects of feminine style that had appeared separately up to this point: the formal qualities (high finish and detail) and the effects on the viewer (a gentle attraction). Distinguishing two styles in Titian, one finished and the other rough, originated with Vasari and became a commonplace in the seventeenth century, but juxtaposing them for their "feminine charm" and "masculine strength" was entirely new.(109) The originality of Malvezzi's stylistic analysis of Titian was grounded in rhetorical convention, notably the Ciceronian dichotomy of a colored, florid style that pleases at first sight compared to the enduring appeal of rough styles.(110) Malvezzi developed his sources in significant ways. Both Vasari and Cicero divide the charming and rough styles temporally: for Vasari, Titian moves from the colorful and finished in his youth to the rough and sketchy in old age; for Cicero, the direction of stylistic development is the opposite. Malvezzi's repeated phrase tal'hora suggests a simultaneity of the divergent styles that is detached from the evolution of his art and character. Similarly the feminine and masculine styles are unrelated to subject matter or the human figure but contained autonomously in brushwork and technique.


When one surveys the vocabulary of brushwork it soon becomes clear that it is divided along a gender bias. Self-effacing brushwork was usually described with feminine attributes: loving, docile, delicate, sweet, exquisite, patted (or preened), clean, pure, tender, and caressing (amorevole, arrendevole, delicato, dolce, esquisito, lisciato, pulito, puro, tenero, vezzoso). It may be recalled, for example, that the quintessentially feminine vaghezza (when applied to technique) usually signified high finish, an even gradation of tones, a polished surface and miniated detail.(111) In contrast, sketchy brushwork where the action of the brush is visibly embedded in the pigment was most often conveyed with terms denoting masculine vigor and aggression: bold, thrusting, courage, punched, frank, vehement, and stabbed (ardito, botte, bravura, colpato, jranco, furioso, pugnato, schermendo, sfodrando).(112)

Marco Boschini wrote that "The painter's brush is manly" in order to defend Venetian painting against charges by Michelangelo and Vasari that his native school was somehow effeminate."3 Boschini tried to allay any doubts about Venice's virility by developing a phallocentric terminology borrowed from fencing and full of jabbing and thrusting brushes laden with pigment. Tintoretto was his hero. If the act or action of the manly brush is visible on the painting's surface, then, in contrast, feminine finish pulls a cosmetic skin over the surface and conceals any action of the brush. Boschini gave to Palma Vecchio and Paris Bordone feminine qualities of "loving finish." The epistemology of brushwork that is seen to be active and brushwork that seems to be passive surely lies in the definition by Plato and Aristotle of man as form and woman as matter, man as active and woman as passive.(114) For Aristotle, man gives form and hence perfection to the imperfect matter of woman was exemplified by bronze casting. Woman was the bronze (the material), and man was the sculptor who gives it form and transforms it into a statue.(115)

Pietro Aretino in the Ragionamento della Nanna e della Antonia (Venice, 1534) redeployed this vivid example by making woman into pigment and man into the brush that manipulates the pigment. But Aretino was no Aristotle. Nanna, a retired prostitute, instructs the young Antonia in the arts of love, which gives Aretino occasion to cast the penis in a series of parodic roles.(116) A bowl of Murano glass dildoes parading as fruit is served in a convent. Slightly later, in an ekphrastic description, Saint Nafissa offers herself in an act of sexual charity. When the man unveils "his little partridge," she turns away as if it were divine "feeling herself unworthy to look straight at it." And finally the "General" struts about "with the big-balled stride of a Bartolomeo Colleoni" and, in a bit of foreplay, brandishes his sword. After he undresses and prepares himself for intercourse, the sword becomes a paintbrush, and it is the paintbrush that consummates the sexual act: "Placing his paintbrush, which he first moistened with spit, in her tiny color cup, he made her twist and turn as women do in the birth throes."(117) The artistic act thus becomes an act of procreation, with man and his paintbrush manipulating the passive pigment in the "color cup" of woman. Man gives form; woman provides the matter. (Ficino called matter a womb.(118)) Lest all of this sounds more like an erotic fantasy of a randy Aretino than real scholarship, let me point out that Cicero's etymology of penicillus, the Latin root for pennello according to the Accademia della Crusca, was exactly the same as Aretino's.(119)

Can a woman painter have paint brushes in this gendered sense? Can she procreate with bold thrusts of the "manly" brush? Renaissance and Baroque art writers did not ask these questions because for them women painters were rarely attributed with any style. Admiration was patriarchally bestowed on women painters for having mastered the basic techniques, for obtaining commissions, for the mere act of painting. But style, as the individuating quality that reflects the artist's character, is most often known by its absence or seen merely as an adequate version of a paternal style. Marietta Tintoretto used the style of her father Jacopo; Artemisia Gentileschi used Orazio's; Chiara Varotari used Dario's; Lavinia Fontana used Prospero's; and so on.(120) In this paternalistic view, men create styles; women can only inherit them preformed. In his life of Ca-terina de' Ginnasi, Giovanni Battista Passeri wrote: "It is true that the Lord did not endow them properly with the faculty of judgment, and this he did in order to keep them restrained within the boundaries of obedience to men, to establish men as supreme and superior, so that with this lack, women would be more docile, more amenable to suggestion."(121) Woman's reputed docility and lack of judgment made her dependent on instruction and subordinate to another's style, much as Guercino depicted in his Painting and Design.

When the gift of style was occasionally extended to women, it always was a style with self-effacing brushwork. Luisa Capomazzo compensates for her weakness in design by coloring cleanly (per la pulizia).(122) Madalena Corvini paints "charming miniatures" (vaghissime miniature).(123) Lavinia Fontana is an istupenda coloratrice (not an artefice, ingegno, or disegnatore) whose style has vaghezza and leggiadria.(124) Chiara Varotari, according to Leonardo Querini (in 1649), "stings (punge), not paints, when she handles colors."(125) Punge suggests painting with the tip of the brush (a detailed technique) as well as the prick of a needle (which is metonymically woman). Sofonisba Anguissola worked "diligently," which was not necessarily a compliment paid to her by Vasari since it implied a lack of imagination and facility.(126) Malvasia wrote that the paintings by Lavinia Fontana are "so gentle, diligent, and tender that they enamor us."(127) In borrowing these observations from Mazzolari, Malvasia omitted the caveat that "la gente ordinaria" was particularly susceptible to her charms. (Diligent paintings were usually finished smoothly and with detail, as we see in Malvezzi's reference to Titian's early style.)

What is noteworthy in these sources that range from Vasari to Bernardo de' Dominici (1732) is how consistently women painters are denied the painterly brush of impasto and scumbling, and how exclusively they are assigned smooth, polished styles. A simple-minded premise seems to be at work here: if a painter is a woman, she must paint in a "feminine" style. It is possible that painters like Rosalba Carriera deliberately adopted a style whose formal attributes of softness and delicacy readily identified her work by the gender of its creator (a kind of trademark). On the other hand, there are examples where stylistic qualities seem to be applied to painters simply because of their gender thereby fulfilling the critics' tauto-logical expectations. Why, for example, would Fontana's paintings be considered any more diligent or finished than her father Prospero's whose work was described by Malvasia as resolute, expeditious, and majestic, except for the fact that they were painted by a woman?(128)

This discussion of gendered style can be concluded with an example that combines the constructed style of women painters with the tradition of feminine attributes of style. In a letter published in 1646, Giovanni Battista Manzini invented the style of a fictional woman painter that sounded very much like the feminine and Mannerist styles described by his friends Malvezzi, Carli, and Malvasia, "that washed out, worn out, wan and cosmetically whitened tenderness that is more of a woman, than a man, painter."(129) Manzini constructed this feminine style in response to unnamed critics of a Hercules Killing the Nemean Lion by Guercino. These critics wanted a softer, more delicate and florid style (morbido, delicato, florido) than the hard, robust and harsh treatment (duro, robusto, ruvido, aspro) found in the Hercules. Manzini's defense relied primarily on a rhetorical conception of style that held style to be subservient to subject. Delicacy in a Herculean labor would be inappropriate. As evidence, he cited a famous comparison of two Theseuses, Hercules' purported friend: a rose-fed Theseus painted by Parrhasius and a beef-eater painted by Euphranor.(130) Parrhasius stylized Theseus so that the hero became effeminate (rose or flowery), whereas the carnivore version by Euphranor is true to his subject. This example, derived from Pliny and Plutarch and satirically transferred by Lodovico Dolce to Raphael and Michelangelo,(131) also relies on a tradition that privileged toughness over delicacy. Manzini concluded that irrespective of subject "the best things are not so tender but more robust" and that "effeminate talents" can paint nothing but polished(miniata) things.(132) The "muscular style" (la maniera herrosa) and the painter who "gives muscles to his brushes" was considered to be superior to the soft delicacy and enervated tenderness of a woman painter.(133)


1 The literature in this area is growing fast and cannot be summarized here. For recent reviews, see Gouma-Peterson and Mathews, 326-57; and Broude and Garrard, 1-25.

2 Cropper, 1976, 374-94; Cropper, 1986, 175-90.

3 Goodman-Soellner, 426-42; Pozzi, 1979, 3-30; Pozzi, 1981, 309-41; Cropper, 1986, 175-90; Rogers, 1986, 291-305; Rogers, 1988, 47-88; Rogers, 1992, 111-20; Fermor, 129-45. Simons and Goffen discuss depictions of women not only as expressions of artistic ideals but also as reflections of social and psychological realities. Garrard, 59-65, advocates a revision of Cropper's literary perspective in the context of Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci.

4 Cropper introduced some of these issues in her seminal work, but they remained ancillary to her main topic and were generally ignored in subsequent literature. Lichtenstein, 1987 and 1989, 153-212, presents a cogent, well-documented case for the identification of coloring with women in seventeenth-century French art criticism. Reilly took a similar course by trying to show how the Aristotelian polarity of female matter and masculine form was adopted in sixteenth-century Italian sources. The general direction of her thesis is sound, but it rests too heavily on the assumption that color must always be identified with matter and that all coloring is feminine. The present article suggests that the case was not so simple (see particularly the last section).

5 Vasari, 4:7-8: "Fu adunque la regola nella architettura, il modo del misurare delle anticaglie, osservando le piante degli edificj antichi nelle opere moderne. L'ordine fu il dividere l'un genere dall'altro, si che toccasse ad ogni corpo le membra sue, e non si cambiasse piu tra loro il dorico, lo ionico, il corintio ed il toscano: e la misura fu universale si nella architettura come nella scultura, fare i corpi delle figure retti, dritti, e con le membra organizzati parimente; ed il simile nella pittura. Il disegno fu lo imitare il piu bello della natura in tutte le figure cosi scolpite come dipinte; la qual parte viene dallo aver la mano e l'ingegno, che rapporti tutto quello che vede l'occhio in sul piano, o disegni o in su fogli o tavola o altro piano, giustissimo ed a punto; e cosi di rilievo nella scultura. La maniera venne poi la piu bella dall'avere messo in uso il frequente ritrarre le cose piu belle, e da quel piu bello o mani o teste o corpi o gambe aggiugnerle insieme, e fare una figura di tutte quelle bellezze che piu si poteva, e metterla in uso in ogni opera per tutte le figure; che per questo si dice esser bella maniera."

6 Ibid., 4:9: "Ma sebbene i secondi [artists of the second period, the Quattrocento] agomentarono grandemente a queste arti tutte le cose dette di sopra, elle non erano pero tanto perfette, che elle finissino di aggiugnere all'interno della perfezione, mancandoci ancora nella regola una licenzia che, non essendo di regola, fosse ordinata nella regola, e potesse stare senza fare confusione o guastare l'ordine. . . . Nella misura mancava uno retto giudizio, che senza che le figure fussino misurate, avessero in quelle grandezze ch'elle eran fatte una grazia che eccedesse la misura."

7 Gombrich's belief (76) that Vasari's five definitions are "rather carelessly adapted from architectural contexts" has not yet been examined.

8 Barocchi, 1:311, and Blunt, 97 proposed Castiglione's definition of sprezzatura as a primary influence on Vasari's preface. However, Vasari could have learned about this type of social or physical grace from other sources, especially Benedetto Varchi (Blunt, 93, n.4) and Leone Ebreo (Barocchi, 1:310, 386-91). Most tellingly, Vasari never used the influential neologism of sprezzatura itself. In any case, the aspects of Vasari's grazia that they find in Castiglione, Varchi, and Ebreo are also presented by Firenzuola and in a form closer to Vasari (see the concluding paragraphs of this section). Cropper, 1976, 374-94, has discussed the importance of Firenzuola (thus turning many scholars, myself included, in this direction) but without noting the connection to Vasari.

9 Firenzuola, 1977, 753: "La leggiadria non e altro . . . che una osservanza d'una tacita legge, data e promulgata dalla natura a voi donne, nel muovere, portare e adoperare cosi tutta la persona insieme, come le membra particolari, con grazia, con modestia, con gentileza, con misura, con garbo, in guisa che nessun movimento, nessuna azione sia senza regola, senza modo, senza misura, o senza disegno."

10 Vasari, 4: 11.

11 Machiavelli, 1550, 1:119 ("Conferendo qualche parte degli antichi ordini ai modi presente"); and 1965, 68. Alunno, n.p. (Tavola), s.v. ordine: "Ordine in genere, che val modo, ragione, &c."

12 Still the most inclusive survey of Renaissance literature on woman is by Kelso.

13 For further biographical information and bibliography, see Cropper, 1976, 374-76 (who provides an excellent discussion of the literary traditions on love and beauty that Firenzuola relied on) and the introduction by Eisenbichler and Murray in Firenzuola, 1993, xiii-xlvii.

14 Cropper, 1976, 379-80.

15 Firenzuola, 1977, 753-54: "Ma, come ci sforza questa tacita legge, assettata, composta, regolata, graziosa; la quale, percioche non e scritta altrove ch'in un certo giudizio naturale che di se ne sa ne puo render ragione, se non che cosi vuol natura, ho voluta tacita nominare; la quale legge nondimeno, percioche ne i libri la posson insegnare, ne la consuetudine la sa mostrare, non e osservata comunemente da tutte le belle. . . . E quella gentil Lucrezia, che sta la verso San Domenico, percioche e fedele osservatrice di questa legge e ha tutte quelle parti che si ricercano alla leggiadria, percio piace tanto a ciascuno; e ancor che le sue fatteze manchin forse in qualche cosellina, secondo le misure di questi scrupulosi disegnatori, nondimeno, s'ella rida, ella piace. . . . [S]apete voi chi mi parve anche sempre una gentil fanciulla e dipinta di tanta leggiadria e di tanta vaghezza, che io non so, se io avessi a dipigner una Venere, se io volessi ritrarre altra donna che lei?" Plotinus's dictum "Not to be told; not to be written" may stand behind these passages (Enneads VI. ix. 4). Cropper, 379-80, draws attention to Firenzuola's interest in the elusiveness of beauty.

16 Ibid., 755: "La grazia non sia altro che uno splendor, il quale si ecciti per occulta via da una certa particolare unione di alcuni membri che noi non sappiam dir."

17 Ibid., 755: "Questo splendor nasca da uno occulat proporzione e da una misura che non e ne nostri libri, la quale noi non conosciamo, anzi non pure imaginiamo, ed e, come si dice delle cose che noi non sappiamo esprimere, un non so the."

18 Lomazzo, 1584, 129: "La vaghezza, ch'altro non e che un desiderio et una brama di cosa che diletta, fa gl'atti ammirativi, stupidi e contemplanti le cose che si veggono, come d'un vano che stia pavoneggiando se stesso con mille balzi, inchini, movimenti e grilli." Vocabolario, 915-16, s.v. vago: "Che vagheggia, amante, lo innamorato. Lat. amasius. @ Add. Che vaga, errante. Lat. vagus. @ Per bramoso, disideroso, cupido. Lat. cupidius. @ Per quello, che si compiace, si diletta. @ Per grazioso, leggiadro. Lat. venustus, elegans." The quote from Firenzuola closes the definition.

19 For surveys of ancient views on women, with useful bibliographies, see Pomeroy. For Renaissance examples on the instability of woman, see Certaldo, 105 and 239; Biondo, 77 ("does not have any stability"); Dolce, 1545, b6 ("their thoughts are flighty, less steady;" quoted in Jordan, 69). Capra, 109, and Sigonio, 189-92, argue that woman may be mutable as alleged, but this is not necessarily blameworthy; as evidence for and against, they cite Virgil, Aeneid 4:569-70 ("Varium et mutabile semper / femina"); Tibullo, Elegy 3 ("sed flecti poterit, mens est mutabilis illis"); Califurno, Eclogue 3 ("mobilior ventis o femina"); and Petrarch, Canzoniere 33, 12. For a history of vaghezza in literary sources and, in particular, its formative usage in Trecento poetry, see Castellano.

20 Biondo, 75-87.

21 Bocchi, 182.

22 Lloyd, 15-170; Summers, 1993, 243-71.

23 The assumed femininity of vaghezza, when applied to painting, can be documented with a variety of examples. In addition to those cited elsewhere in this article, see Alberti, 1547, 36 (where Domenichi describes the color harmonies of an imagined Diana and nymphs as having vaghezza); Vasari, 3:258 (to describe the heads of "femmine vaghissime" painted by Ghirlandaio); Vasari, 4:114 (to describe the coloring of Correggio's Madonna della Scala); Borghini, 645 (to describe the coloring of Francesco Poppi's Purification of the Virgin, Pistoia, S. Francesco); Ridolfi, 2:93 (to describe the atmosphere surrounding an Aurora by Pozzoserato); Scannelli, 353 (to describe the women surrounding Apollo in Reni's Aurora); Nota delli musei, 21 (to describe the miniatures painted by Madalena Covini); Frugoni, 167 (vaghezza as a highly finished painted style suited for vain women); Malvasia, 2:228 (to describe young virgins); Panni, 10, 100 and 102 (to describe the depicted faces of women). For leggiadria, often related to vaghezza, as a feminine quality, see Fermor, 129-45.

24 Gelli, 683. Vasari, 7:427-28: knowledge of disegno allows the artist to avoid hiding his ignorance under the charm of coloring ("ad avere a nascere sotto la vaghezza de' colori lo stennto del non sapere disegnare"). Boschini, 182: Giuseppe Salviati "non ha forma / Ne Pagi, ne livree, ne Servitori, Con pompa de vaghezze e de colori; / Ma la simplice e pura verita." Passeri, 16, identifies the failure of modern painting with professionals "charmed by a charming style" ("invaghiti li Proffesori [sic] d'una vaga maniera") that values "simple appearance" over rules, doctrine and art. According to Lomazzo, 1584, 173-74, vaghezza is a too visible artifice that corrupts painting by overlaying and suppressing the objects it supposedly represents thus favoring artifice over illusion.

25 According to Armenini, 84-85, the masses judge paintings by "the exterior eye" and so are easily dazzled by the vaghezza of colors. Lomazzo, 1590, 300, discusses the "vaghezza esteriore di colore" that appeals to those who judge by sense. See also Lomazzo, 1590, 304-05 and 323. Agucchi, xlviii, identifies the vaghezza of colors and the addobbi of drapery as superficial qualities that appeal to the uninformed.

26 Aelian (Laureo), V.H., 73: "Protogene consumo sette anni intieri a dipignere l'Ialyso, e Apelle, come prima lo vide, rimaso muto per stupore. Et risguardando disse. La fatica, e l'artefice e grande. Ma tuttavia l'arteficio vince la vaghezza, e la gratia, il che se quest'huomo havesse ottenuto, la sua fatica sarebbe immortale." Alberti, 1547, 28: "Ma l'historia, laquale meritamente tu possa & lodare, & ammirare, sara di questa sorte, laquale con certe vaghezze si mostri cosi dilettevole, & ornata, che lungo tempo tragga a se gli occhi del dotto, & de l'ignorante con un certo piacere, & moto d'animo." Alberti's own translation uses piacevolezze instead of vaghezze, and grata instead of dilettevole; his Latin has illecebris for vaghezze.

27 Vasari, 4:9: "Nel disegno non v'erano gli estremi del fine suo; perche, sebbene e facevano un braccio tondo ed una gamba diritta, non era ricerca con muscoli, con quella facilita graziosa e dolce, che apparisce fra 'l vedi e non vedi."

28 Firenzuola, 1977, 728-32. For other authors who identify beauty with proportion, see Romei, 6.

29 Ebreo; text and passage are quoted by Barocchi, 1:389: "Se bene consideri, trovarai che, quantunque ne le cose proporzionate e concordati si truova bellezza, la bellezza e oltre la loro proporzione. . . . Non la proporzione e essa bellezza, che di quelli che non sono ne proporzionati ne improporzionati, perche non sono composti, si truovano bellissimi."

30 Varchi, 86 and 89: "E questi [earlier writers] per la maggior parte dicono che la bellezza non e altro che la debita proporzione e corrispondenza di tutte le membra <tra> loro; e cosi vogliono che la bellezza consista e risulti nella debita quantita e della convenevole qualita delle parti, aggiuntovi la dolcezza o soavita de' colori." For earlier examples on the ineffable, see Tonelli and Hawkens, both of whom cite the famous passage from Augustine's On Christian Doctrine: "God should not be said to be ineffable, for when this is said, something is said" (P.L. 34:21). Ebreo and Varchi transformed the ineffability traditionally associated with divinity to the inner grace of woman's soul that is superior to outer appearance, embodied and limited by matter. For an excellent discussion of Varchi's Trattati d'amore in relation to art theory, see Mendelsohn, 59-64. Following the lead of Cropper, Mendelsohn proposes that the canon of female beauty was transferred to art and subsumed as beauty in art.

31 Summers, 1981, 368-96, discusses the opposition between "intuitive and numerical proportion" for Michelangelo, Pino, Danti, and others. Their objections to numerical proportion rest on artistic practice where foreshortenings that describe the movement or pose of a body will inevitably distort a measured canon, or, stated differently, where a stable set of proportion freezes figures into "simple, stiff and insipid" poses (Pino, in Barocchi, 1:103). Danti noted that the body lacks precise points of reference that can be used for measurements.

32 Vasari, 4:9: "Alla quale mancava una leggiadria di fare svelte e graziose tutte le figure, e massimamente le feminine ed i putti con le membra naturali come agli uomini, ma ricoperte di quelle grassezze . . . che non siano goffe come le naturali, ma arteficiate dal disegno e dal giudizio."

33 Dolce, 1557, in Barocchi, 1:195: "Percioche, oltre la invenzione, oltre al disegno, oltre alla varieta, oltre che le sue cose tutte movono sommamente, si trova in loro quella parte che avevano, come scrive Plinio, le figure de Apelle: e questa e la venusta, che e quel non so che, che tanto suole aggradire, cosi ne' pittori comme ne' poeti."

34 Ibid., 1:196: "E un non so che negli occhi, che in un punto / Po far chiara la notte, oscuro il die, / E 'l mele amaro, et addolcir l'ascenzio."

35 Ibid., 1:199: "Diede costue certa vaghezza alle cose sue, che fanno inamorar chiunque le rigurarda."

36 Galen, 5:413 and 5:23, in De placitis Hippocratis et Platonis and De cognoscendis curandisque animi morbis presents love as an irrational form of desire for a person or beautiful object that disables the lover to reasonably judge the object of their love. Quintilian, VI. ii. 6 claims that "lovers are incapable of forming a reasoned judgment on the beauty of the object of their affections." Cicero, 12:42, 51, presents carnal pleasure as blind-folding the eyes of the intellect. The love of God is represented as the incapacity of human intellect to apprehend the divine. Vasari, 4:183, and Borghini, 188, use nonsoche to describe (or avoid describing) Saint Bernard's state in contemplating a vision of the Virgin as depicted by Fra Bartolomeo and Santi di Tito's Christ in the Resurrection.

37 Alberti, 1960.

38 See notes 35-36. Capra, 98, identifies the effects of feminine beauty as nonsoche: "La quale vista, il qual amore, il qual desiderio non si puo muovere se non da un non so che piacere che agli occhi nostri corre ogni volta che si giudizia alcuna cosa esser bella." Capra, 96-97, also defines the corporeal beauty of woman by its effects on man and claims that it is more pleasing than the spiritual qualities of dignita and maiesta. He does not apply the term vaghezza, but its qualities are identical - "una venusta, una attrazione piena di desiderio, piena d'amore e questa e propria e peculiare de le donne."

39 Or, to return to a previous passage, why can Vasari assign to Leonardo the qualities of rule, order, proportion, design, and grace that seem to be based on Firenzuola's version of feminine beauty and yet in the same sentence attribute masculine attributes of design: "He showed the force and robustness of drawing"?

40 The belief "being spread abroad by many artists who thought more of Raphael's grace than of Michelangelo's profundity" (Vasari, 5:567) was the central polemic of Dolce's Dialogo della pittura and the subject of frequent rebuttal by Vasari.

41 Boschini, 738.

42 Still the best arguments in favor of Hollanda's reliability are by Clements and Summers, 1972. For a thorough reconsideration of Hollanda's relation to Italian art criticism and theory, with an up-to-date bibliography, see Deswarte-Rosa.

43 Hollanda, 15.

44 Pedretti, 1964, 35: "E di qui nasce che chi s'innamora volentieri s'innamorano di cose a loro simiglianti." See also Cicero, On Friendship, 14:50.

45 Michelangelo also notes that Flemish painting moves the viewer to tears, possibly with the knowledge that women were conventionally thought to be more easily moved to tears than men: Aristotle, Historia animalum 9:1 [608 a 21 ff].

46 For a conventional misogynist statement that associates sense and desire with woman and intellect with man, see Tasso, Il Padre di famiglia, 84: "una perpetua nemica [la donna], la qual non altramente sempre a lui ripugna di quel che faccia negli animi nostri la cupidita smoderata alla ragione; percioche tale e la donna in rispetto dell'uomo, quale e la cupidita in rispetto dell'intelletto." See also Tasso, 1572, n.p. (preface: "intellectual speculation does not suit her"); cited by Jordan, 147-48. Alberti advises the male reader of I libri della famiglia that he should introduce his new wife to all his goods ("my treasures, silver, tapestry, garments, jewels") and his house from cellar to attic, everything except his books: "Only my books and records . . . did I determine to keep sealed. . . . These my wife not only could not read, she should not even lay hands on them" (Alberti, 1960, 219). Sigonio defended woman against twenty-seven slanders, but there is a conspicuous absence of any reference to reason. For the imperfection of woman's judgment ("consilium invalidum et instabile") that Aristotle popularized in the Politics (1:13), see Maclean, 50, who cites Niccolo Vito di Gozzi, Dello stato delle republiche secondo la mente di Aristotele (Venice, 1591) and Antonio Montecatini, Politicorum . . . [liber] tertius Aristotelis conversus in Latinam linguam et commentariis (Ferrara, 1597). For a refutation of Aristotle, see Sigonio, 100-09. The literature on learned women and the sources identified by scholars that argue in favor of women's intellectual abilities provide an important corrective to traditional views on Renaissance women: Conti Odoriso, 19-100; Gundersheimer; Labalme, 1980; Labalme, 1981; King; King and Rabil; Jordan. The frequency that Renaissance writers felt it necessary to argue the case for women's learning serves just as much as evidence for an enduring misogyny in the Renaissance. Without a bedrock of prejudice against women's ability to reason and read critically, their emphatic statements to the contrary would not be necessary. For a discussion of persistent misogynist commonplaces, see Maclean's conclusions, 82-93.

47 Castiglione, 362: "Allora il signor Gasparo, - Io non vorrei, - disse, - che noi entrassimo in tali suttilita, perche queste donne non c'intenderanno; e benche io vi risponda con ottime ragioni, esse crederanno, o almeno mostraranno di credere, ch'io abbia il torto, e subito daranno la sentenzia a suo modo."

48 Ibid., 359.

49 Kelly's analysis, 48-53, of the retentive male bias in reputedly feminist Renaissance literature has influenced a generation of scholars working in this area. Her use of Castiglione in this respect stands behind the discussion of the Courtier.

50 Cennini, 81: "Nota che, innanzi piu oltra vada, ti voglia dare a littera le misure dell'uomo. Quelle della femmina lascio stare, perche non ha nessuna perfetta misura."

51 Ibid., 82: "Dalla forcella della gola a quella del magon, o vero stomaco, un viso: dallo stomaco al bellico, un viso: dal bellico al nodo della coscia, un viso: dalla coscia al ginocchio, due visi."

52 Ibid., 83: "Degli animale irrazionali non ti contero, perche non n'apparai mai nessuna misura. Ritra' ne e disegna piu che puoi del naturale, e proverrai in cio a buna pratica."

53 Standard classical sources include Plato, Timaeus 91D; Aristotle, De generatione animalum 1:2 [716 a 15]; Aristotle, Historia animalium 7:2 [582 a 33]; Plutarch, Symposium III. q.4. See also note 19.

54 For an excellent discussion, see Summers, 1981, 332-46 and 368-79.

55 Vasari, 4:11.

56 Lomazzo, 1584, 173-74; Armenini, 84-85; Lomazzo, 1590, 300-01 and 329-30. For Petrarch's distinction between superficial appreciation of colors and learned appreciation of their illusions, see Petrarch, De remediis; discussed by Baxandall, 51-66. I am grateful to Mary Pardo for indicating the importance of this reference.

57 Serlio, 3:103v. "Ma sono molti Architettori, e massimamente al di d'hoggi, che per piacere al vulgo, e per adornare le sue male intese Architetture, ci mettono molti intagli." See also 106v and 110v.

58 Gelli, 682-83: "Onde voi sarete finalmente forzati a confessare, che in questo Poeta sia, oltre alia dottrina e alia grandezza de' concetti, tanto grande l'arte nel sapere exprimergli, che questi a i quali piacciono piu quegli altri poeti (che cercando molto piu dilettare che giovare, scrivon con piu leggiadria e piu eleganza che ei sanno concetti e pensieri dolci d'amore) che non piace Dante, si possono assomigliare a quegli ai quali piaccion piu, per la vaghezza de' colori e per la varieta de' paesi, che sono in quelle, le pitture fiandresche (per darvi uno esempio nella pittura, la quale e tanto simile alla poesia, che le pitture si chiamano poesie che non parlano, e le poesie pitture che parlano), che non farebbe un quadro di Michelagnolo, ove fussero in un campo scuro, e d'un color solo, che figure si volessero, che mostrassero, come egli e solito fare, e con le attitudini e con gli scorci, che l'arte, se ella potesse dare alle cose che ella fa la vita e il moto, come fa la natura, ella non arebbe da vergognarsi punto da lei." Discussed by Summers, 1981, 332 and 550.

59 Plato, Gorgias, 459; Plato, Phaedrus, 260. Aristotle, even though he devoted the third book of the Rhetoric to elocutio, did not disagree with prevailing opinion that the subject of style itself is vulgar because it is merely an outward display intended to please the audience (III.i. 5-6 [1404 a]). For an application of this rhetorical tradition to French art criticism, see Lichtenstein, 1989.

60 Excessive self-adornment is frequently given as evidence of profligate spending, of "fraudulent simulations of beauty" intended to seduce. Standard sources that condemn self-adornment as symptoms of woman's vanity and profligacy are from the Bible (I Cor. 7:34; I Tim. 2:9), Jerome's epistles (128; P.L. 22:1096) and Aquinas's Summa (2a 2ae 169,2); see Maclean, 15-16, for a summation of this tradition. For a defense of ornamentation not cited by Maclean or in the literature below, see Sigonio, 114-19. Rogers, 1988, 47-74, presents two views on the subject: Trissino and Luigini who make the adornments of jewelry, coiffure, and cosmetics integral to feminine beauty; and Firenzuola who advises restraint in such adornments especially if their artifice detracts from natural beauty. For a conventional expression of jewelry and ornament as evidence of worldly pomp and woman's luxuria and wantonness, see King and Rabil, 95 (letter from Gregorio Correr to Cecilia Gonzaga, 5 August 1443). Simons, 43 and 48, discusses how jewelry could be interpreted as a sign of the husband's rank and wealth. In an oration of 1453, Nicolosa Sanuti defends ornament as a sign of feminine dignity and virtue: Frati, 251-62 and Hughes, 26-27. See also Labalme, 1980, 133-36, for the defense in Venice of jewelry and ornamented dress as a noblewoman's birthright and evidence of social status; and Labalme, 1980, 140-41, for the rejection of jewelry and other vanity items by Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia as evidence of her learning and freedom from her feminine nature. Castiglione, 116-18 and 158-60, claimed to reject this view, yet he repeatedly warns women about the dangers of a deadening cosmetic mask with sufficient strength to suggest this to be a real and present danger. See also Alberti, 1969, 223 (where cosmetics are discussed as a mask of truth lending woman an air of dishonesty); Giraldi Cinzio, 96 (presents an ironic view of cosmetics: in trying to please, women displease by concealing their natural beauty); and Piccolomini, 22-23 (cosmetics as a mask is satirized through a "Madonna Giachetta" whose make-up had dried out so that she had to "stare interizita e non voltar la testa se non con tutta la persona insieme, accioche la mascara non si fendesse"). The immobilized face and cracked skin/cosmetics was also employed by Castiglione. For an application of cosmetics to coloring in art, see Reilly, 94-95.

61 Quintilian, VIII. pref. 18-19 and VIII. iii. 11. The contrast of healthful vigor and cosmetics appears in Plato's Gorgias; see Cropper, 1984, 235-36. In addition to those sources cited by Lichtenstein (1987, 78-79; 1989, 183-211), see Philostratus, 17, n.5; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, III; Cicero, De oratore, 23:78-79; Quintilian III. xxv. 99-100; XI. i. 3.

62 Pino, 1:134. Barotti, 86, applied this story in his recension to a painting by Carlo Bononi.

63 Dolce, 1557, in Barocchi, 1:193-94. Barocchi, 1:482, cites Gelli and Lenzoni (10) in relation to Dolce.

64 Vasari, 7:447: "Dopo partiti che furono da lui, ragionandosi del fare di Tiziano, il Buonarruoto lo comendo assai, dicendo che molto gli piaceva il colorito suo e la maniera; ma che era un peccato che a Vinezia non s'imparasse da principio a disegnare bene, e che non avessono que' pittori miglior modo nello studio. Con cio sia (diss'egli) che se quest'uomo fusse punto aiutato dall'arte e dal disegno, come e dalla natura, e massimamente nel contrafare il vivo, non si potrebbe far piu ne meglio."

65 Bellori, 1695, 112. Bellori, unlike Vasari, emphasized what Michelangelo lacked: the stylistic breadth of Raphael who incorporated the feminine stylistic attributes of "forme tenere, gentili, svelte, graziose e delicate."

66 Daly Davis, 65, reproduces an outline of Vincenzo Danti's lost manuscript from Egnazio Danti's Le scienze matematiche ridotte in tavole (Bologna, 1577). In the context of defining ritrarre and imitare, Vincenzo Danti wrote: "Laonde si vede che Titiano ha dipinto alle molte figure di femine bellissime, & alle volte non cosi belle, secondo, che ha favti corpi belli da ritrarre, come quello, che procedeva solo per la via del ritrarre."

67 Vasari, 2:667-82.

68 Traditionally discussions of Venice as a city of women have focused on its courtesans, the carnal milieu of carnival, and fashions in dress. For Venice's courtesans, see Zorzi. For the seductive (or, depending on the writer) immoral fashions in clothing, almost always made by foreigners, see the early comments by Dietrich von Schachten, Bericht uber die Pilgerfahrt des Landgrafen von Hessen, Wilhelm des Alteren nach dem Heiligen Land 1491 (quoted in Cacciapaglia, 76): "Auch mag Ich sagenn, das Ich zwar an weibern keine schlendlichere kleidunge gesehen habe ausgeschnietten, das man hiendenn bies auff halbenn Ruckenn hienab, desgleichen forne bies under die brust, daruber sie auff das allersubtileste, als sie ihmmer fiendtenn konnenn, duchlein tragen, sehen kann, darumb als ehrlichenn die Manner ihnn Kleidunge da gehenn, so schendtlichenn siendt die weiber wiederumb." For an anthology of sources testifying to the survival of this tradition through the nineteenth century, see Vairo. A new feminist perspective on Venice as a city of women has emerged from the studies of Conti Odorisio, 19-100; Labalme, 1980, 134-35 and 141-42; Labalme, 1981, 81-109; King; Jordan, 138 and 254-55.

69 Vasari, 5:584: "Ma essendo pur sollecitato, egli [Michelangelo] finalmente disse che non voleva farla [the Last Judgment] se non a fresco, e che il colorire a olio era arte da donna e da persone aggiate et infingarde, come fra' Bastiano." The 1550 edition reads: "Disse che non la voleva fare se non a fresco, che il colorire a olio era arte da donna."

70 Lomazzo, 1590, 303. Oil is suitable for giovani effeminati: "E questi modi di lavorare [tempra and oil], eccetto il fresco, sono propriamente da giovani effeminati, massime quello de l'oglio." Mola, 45: "Il'Giuditio tanto ecc.te, e la magior, e miglio opera ass.e con la volta che di pittura abbia fatto M. A. Bonarota quale hebbe contrasto da fra Bastiano del Piombo ben che suo amicissimo, che proponeva presso il Papa lo facesse a olio, et esso li rispose che l'pingere a olio era cosa da femine."

71 Boschini, 738: "Fu dunque cosi stimato il dipinger a fresco, che ebbe a dir Michiel Angelo che il dipingere ad oglio era mestiero da poltroni." The chapter on oil technique in Vasari's technical preface opens with a brief and unreliable history of oil painting: it was invented in Bruges by Jan van Eyck, developed further by Roger van der Weyden, Hans Memling and others, brought to Venice from Flanders by Antonello da Messina and introduced to Florence from Venice by Domenico Veneziano. The substitution of Flanders for Venice by Francesco da Hollanda, if that did happen as proposed, was a natural transferral that would have allowed him to maintain the attendant values (color, naturalism, appeal to the sense, landscape). Michelangelo, in referring to the effeminacy of oil painting, had an immediate context - the work of Sebastiano Veneziano (del Piombo) - as well as a wider range of reference suggested by his critique of the feminine appeal of Venetian painting.

72 For standard texts on woman's passivity, see 1 Timothy 2:11-13; and Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (1, Q. 92, a. 1). See also notes 115 and 116.

73 Listed as lost by Pepper, 298 (Appx. 1, C3). Two versions, both in private collections (Berlin and Maison-Laffitte) have been subsequently proposed as originals: Schlegel, 124-25; Brejon de Lavergnee, 458-59, n.481. I am grateful to Richard Spear for these references.

74 Passeri, 257; cited by Sutherland Harris, 32.

75 Vasari, 1:185: "Questa maniera di colorire accende piu i colori; ne altro bisogna che diligenza ed amore, perche l'olio in se si reca il colorito piu morbido, piu dolce e dilicato, e di unione e sfumato maniera piu facile che gli altri; e, mentre che fresco si lavora, i colori si mescolano e si uniscono l'uno con l'altro piu facilmente."

76 Ibid., 4:92 and 332; 5:10; 6:257; Dolce, 1557, in Barocchi, 1:177; Williams, 123 (quoting Bocchi); Armenini, 144; [Lutio Faberio], Funerale, 40; Marino, 1:282.

77 Vasari, 4:139 and 5:10; Borghini, 645.

78 Dolce, 1557, in Barocchi, 1:177.

79 Armenini, 163.

80 Alberti, 1547, 25v; Borghini, 140.

81 Vasari, 4:139; 5:10 and 158; Lomazzo, 1584, 2:200; Armenini, 144.

82 Vasari, 4:11; Borghini, 418.

83 Vasari, 4:11.

84 Ibid., 4:223.

85 Ibid., 4:12 and 6:266-67.

86 On Sarto: Vasari, 4:12; 5:10, 53, 56; Borghini, 418; Lomazzo, 1584, 2:174; Williams, 122-23 (quoting Bocchi).

87 Vasari, 7:210.

88 Ibid., 4:585; Cardi, 16; Verdizotti, 1622, n.p.

89 Vasari, 1:182. Armenini, 132, relied on Vasari for his discussion of fresco: "Et in questo lavorare [fresco] ci bisogna aver la mano che sia sicurissima, rissoluta e ben disciolta, il che gli e porto da un chiaro et esperto giudizio."

90 Cropper, 1984, 252-53: "E con voce alquanto rozzetta in vero, esschlamava lui haver pocho i colori adoperati perche vedeva la Pittura esser femmina et il Disegnio maschio, e che volendosi unirsi spesso vediamo l'una parte e l'altra talmente indebilitarsi che a pena si sostengono. E qui alsava gagliardamente contro quegli che tanto con i colori cerchano dilettarne il senso e far servo ii disegno a una vilissima feminella che chiamava la Pittura." For a discussion of this passage, see Cropper, 1984, 132.

91 An interesting example of this is in Bursati (n.p. [D5]; quoted in Jordan, 261) where "Alessandro Saluti" argues against allowing women to serve as lawyers because "the beauties and graces of women have too much force and too great value. . . . Consequently men, knowing that unsophisticated males - because of their bad tendencies - are easily caught in the snares of women's amorous graces, have forbidden women to appear before tribunals to perform the functions of solicitor or lawyer." For an excellent discussion of the critical and rhetorical foundations of color as seductress in seventeenth-century France, see Lichtenstein, 1987, 77-84 and 1989, 183-211.

92 These quotes from Philippe de Champagne and Dufresnoy, and many other examples, can be found in Lichtenstein, 1989, 183-211.

93 Cozzando, 122: "E se non s'havesse lasciato corrompere la sua prima maniera di lavorare da lisci, e politezze amate dalle Monache (alle quali percio servi assai) sarebbe senza dubbio riuscito Pittore eccellente. Ma degenero, in quasi bassa, e vile miniatura." This passage appears in chapter 58, on Brescian painters, which is dedicated to Francesco Paglia, author of Il giardino della pittura (Brescia, 1713). Cristelle Baskins has pointed out to me that Cozzando might be describing the realities of patronage and not just the rhetoric of gender.

94 Orlandi, 268: "Se non avesse cangiato la sua prima maniera forte, e caricata, in una quasi minuta, e lisciata, per compiacere con tal dolcezza alle Monache, per le quali dipinse varie Madonne, e quadri, per certo meritava."

95 Averoldo, 149: "Al sesso donnesco piacera forse la tela dell'ultimo Altare, perocche, dira, mantiene ella vivaci colori, ella e dolce, ella e lisciata." Averoldo is describing the same altarpiece as Cozzando, Saint Louis with Saints Sebastian and Alexander (Brescia, S. Alessandro).

96 Crusca, Vocabolario, 488, s.v. lisciare. E stropicciar una cosa, per farla pulita, e bella. Lat. demulcere, molliter, attrectare, perpolire. S.v. liscio. lustrante, pulito. Lat. laevis, planus, politus. @ Per porsi il liscio in sul viso, ed e proprio delle donne. Lat. fucari. Comen. Inf. 23. Ricoperta di fuori con lisciata bellezza d'onesta (cioe finta, e adorna). S.v. liscio. Materia con che le donne si lisciano, fatta di varie materie. Crusca, I623, 477, s.v. liscio. Materia con che le donne procurano di farsi colorite, e belle le carni. For examples of liscio in pictorial technique as a highly reflective (and hence masking) surface, see Franchi, 93: "Se detti corpi, illuminati dal lume primario, sono di superficie liscie e tersa, e vicini allo scuro de' corpi, in cui reflettono le reflessioni, che pro-ducono in essi, sono assai simili alla chiarezza, e al colore de' detti corpi illuminati; ma quanto piu questi corpi illuminati son di superficie non liscia, orozza, e lontani dello scuro de i detti corpi, tanto piu tali reflessioni riescono languide e dilatate." And Lana, 1670, 155-56: "quando il lume ferisce un corpo liscio, e lustro, lo mostra molto piu chiaro di quello che faccia un altro corpo meno lustro, e polito. . . . [N]el colorire si devono usare maggiori chiari in quelle parti, che vorremo esprimere piu terse, e pulite; come se vorremo dipingere una carnagione liscia, e lustra, dovremo farla piu chiara, benche a cio poscia aiuti anche molto veramente la superficie, che colorita della tel sia ben liscia, e dipinta con colori ben macmati, alli quali alcuni aggiongono in fine certa Vernice, di cui diremo appresso."

97 Maclean, 22-23, cites two foundational sources: Proverbs 31:10-29; Eccl. 36:27.

98 Vasari, 2: I71-72. In the life of Luca della Robbia, Vasari distinguishes between the majority of artists who "cammina sempre risoluto alla perfezione con molta agevolezza," and a minority who "do not work well without working slowly." "Comecche il volgo migliore giudichi una certa delicatezza esteriore ed apparente, che poi manca nelle cose essenziali ricoperte dalla diligenza, che il buono fatto con ratione e giudizio, ma non cosi di fuori ripulito e lisciato." For related uses of lisciato as artistic failure, see Armenini, 161-62; Lomazzo, 1590, 356.

99 In his interpretive translation and commentary on Demetrius, Panigarola (2:103, part. xvi) juxtaposes the chopped or partitioned (tramezzato) periodic structure of Giorgias and the expansive, unperiodic style of the ancients ("tutta distesa senza periodi"). Giorgas's speech is intricate, entwined (intrecciato), exquisite (esquisito) and is known as sophistic because it values elaboration of form over clarity of content: "I sofistici erano quelli, che con troppo scoperta affettatione polivano, e lisciavano i loro ragionamenti." Tassoni, 362, "Riposta al Soccino," opposes the purity of sincere, truthful speech to the showy effects of eloquence. In this context he opposes Venus (beauty as truth) to cosmetics that could only sully her face: "essendo io professore di schiettezza non di eloquenza, e parendomi che in questo caso il voler con pompa di parole abbellire la verita manifesta sia un isporcar di lisci la faccia di Venere." Dati, 1664, 25, praises the purity of the Roman language by noting the absence of ostentatious display, here identified with the sensory appeal of perfumes and cosmetics: "Era [the Roman language] non cascante di vezzi, non adornata di ricci, lisci e profumi, quasi donna di mondo."

100 Perini, 1990, 88. For Reynolds description of Reni as "too effeminate," see Perini, 1988, 157.

101 Marzocchi, 1980, 26; Malvasia, 2:13. In a comparison of Veronese and Correggio, Malvasia, 2:136, evokes a woman painter: Correggio's paintings appear to be made "di mano di una pittrice, e di una donna" because they lack "la bravura, maesta e facilita" of those by Veronese.

102 Boschini, 151-52. For a discussion of this passage, see Sohm, 104-05.

103 Marzocchi, n.d., 51 (life of Cavedoni): "Ma si come nel disegno cerco un'abbreviatura ta cerco parimente nel colore di poche mestiche servendosi e delle principali, ridendosi di quelli che per via delle mezze tente di certi lividetti o rosetti fanno passaggio da lumi a scuri e biasimando la tanta finitezza, leccatura e diligenza ii che a lui riusciva in quel suo far facile."

104 Ibid., 83 (life of Aloisi): "Non faceva i ritratti tanto leccati e finiti che dassero nel secco."

105 Malvasia, 2:7: "Dionigi essere veramente (massime per disgrossare i novizzi) un paziente e bravo direttore, e non aver pari; mancargli solo una abiurazione da quella maniera troppo manierosa appunto, leccata ed oltramontana, ma benche bevuta da lui col latte de' primi ammaestramenti, facile pero ad evacuarsi, per esser passata piu in cibo, che in alimento alia sua ancor fresca eta." See also the life of Calvaert, I:196, where Malvasia lists several paintings done by him soon after his return from Rome that were "troppo finito, leccato, e (quel che piu gli spiaceva sentirgli a dire) affiamingato" and "troppo leccato e manieroso."

106 Ibid., 2:I3: "Ma se non piacque ad Annibale, tanto spiacque al Caravaggio, che temette assai di una nuova maniera, totalmente alia sua opposta ed altrettanto quanto la sua gradita. Ne sparlava pero egli con troppa liberta, chiamandola leccata e tutta fantastica."

107 For references to his collection, see ibid., I:I54, 191, 396; 2:27-28, 3O, 46, $I, 60, 63, 136, 139-41, 355-56, 410. For a biography of Malvezzi, see Brandli.

108 Malvezzi, 1648, n.p. (preface): "Titiano forse il piu famoso Pittore, e senza forse fra piu famosi, tal'hora dipinte con tante, e cosi diligenti pennellate, che parve quasi volesse far numerabili i capelli: e tal' hora si contento grossamente le pitture di pocchi, e rozzissimi colpi figurare. Spettatore intelligente da cosi diversa maniera nell'una riconoscera il vago della femina, nell'altra il robusto maschile; Quella passara con lode, in questa si fermara con ammiratione; sentirassi dalla delicata soavemente inclinare, dalla rozza violentemente rapire." This passage was quoted with little commentary by Raimondi, 84. For further discussion in the context of Malvezzi's thought, see Sohm, 56-62.

109 Vasari, 7:452, describes Titian's late work as "condotte di colpi, tirate via di grosso e con macchie." See Sohm, 51-53, for a discussion on this passage by Vasari.

110 Malvezzi, 1648, 3-4 and 91.

111 Vasari, 5:622; Lomazzo, 1584, 266-67; Borghini, 140; Boschini, 52, 70 and 367; Nota delli musei, 21; Frugoni, 167.

112 The semantic history of these terms will be included in a forthcoming book on style and stylistic terminology in Italian art criticism 1550-1750.

113 Boschini, 678.

114 Aristotle, De generatione animalium 1:20. See Plato, Timaeus (50d) for an earlier version. A standard medieval text on woman's passivity is in Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (I, Q. 92, a. 1). For a Renaissance rebuttal of this passage, particularly in reference to procreation, see Gundersheimer, 188-89. Goggio argues that man's seed offers only the potential for growth and hence is more passive than the mother's role which transforms and nourishes. See also Capra, 107-08, on patient woman and active man. For intelligent reviews of gendered form and matter as philosophical concepts applied to art theory, see Summers, 1993; and Jacobs, 78-87.

115 Aristotle, De generatione animalum, I. xx [729 a 10-729 b 25]. Castiglione, 363, has the discredited Gasparo state the masculine form-feminine matter thus: "L'omo s'assimiglia alla forma, la donna alia materia; e pero, cosi come la forma e piu perfetta che la materia, anzi le da l'essere, cosi l'omo e piu perfetta assai che la donna."

116 Aretino, 1969, 17-20.

117 Ibid., 20: "Nol consumo miga: che posta il suo pennello nello scudellino del colore, umiliatolo prima con lo sputo, lo facea torcere nella guisa che si torceno le donne per le doglie del parto o per il real della madre."

118 Kristeller, 284. See Reilly, 92-93, for the inherent masculinity of the creative act where man can create "life" without woman. Reilly, however, takes metaphorical statements of transforming color into flesh as literal expressions of male procreativity, without acknowledging their primary context in the rhetoric of illusionism.

119 Cicero, Epistulae ad familiares IX. xxii. 2 (letter to Papirius Paetus): "Caudam antiqui penem vocabant: ex quo est propter similitudinem penicillus. At hodie penis est in obscenis."

120 Fileti Mazza and Gaeta Bertela, ed., 316 (letter by Marco Boschini to Leopoldo de' Medici, 6 July 1675): "Devo dar parte all'Altezza Vostra da nuovo mi e' stato racordato un ritratto che e' di Marieta Tintoretta virtuosissima pittrice . . . questo ritratto e' pure fatto da lei stessa sul proprio gusto e maniera del padre." For other evidence on women painters as followers, see Jacobs, 96-98. For Anguissola's subversive reference and inversion of this patriarchal view of women painters, see Garrard, 1994, 556-80.

121 Passeri, 257. Cited by Sutherland Harris, 32.

122 Domenici, 3:93.

123 Nota delli musei, 21.

124 Lomazzo, 1584, 367.

125 Querini, 75, cited by Aikema, 89; "Chiara punge, non pinge / Mentre tratta i colori."

126 Vasari, 6:498; cited by Sutherland Harris, 31.

127 Malvasia, 1:177-78: "Diro solo che sono cosi gentili, diligenti e teneri che in-namorano." For Lavinia Fontana and Sofonisba Anguissola as "teneri sempre e galanti," see Malvasia, 2:92. Malvasia, 2: 180, quotes Mazzolari on Fontana's painting of the Madonna and Child with young Baptist in the Escorial as "pittura cosi vistosa, allegra e vaga e di si buon colorito e cosi piena di dolcezza, che mai si sazierebbe di vederla. E con essere in quel luogo tante e si eccellenti pitture, questa sola porta via gli occhi, ed innamora, particolarmente la genre ordinaria."

128 Malvasia, 1: 173-75.

129 Manzini, 138 (undated letter to a Benedictine monk, Giuseppe da Piacenza): "Quella tenerezza slavata, sfianchita, smorta, & imbiaccata e piu tosto da pittrice, che da pittore."

130 Manzini. 136-37: "Eufranore, e Parasio, Pittori d'incorutibil grido, fecero (e forse in concorso) ciascuno di essi un ritratto di Teseo. Era morbidissimo, al solito, quel di Parasio, e duretto, anzi, che non, quello di Eufranore; onde, parendo, che qualch'uno fosse per applicar la sua parzialita a quel di Parasio, Eufranore, ch'era un'huom di giudicio, amando di rimetter' in ufficio gli astanti, e farli avveduti dell'indecenza, con che si dava il morbido (137) ad un petto di bronzo, senza male dir punto al rivale, si lascio intender salatamente non esser da maravigliarsi, che'l suo Teseo cedesse di tenerezza a quello di Parasio, posciache quegli era impastato carne, e quel di Parasio era impastato di rose."

131 Pliny, Natural History, 35:129; Plutarch, De gloria Atheniensium, 346; Dolce, 1557, in Barocchi, 1:193-94; also retold by Dati, 1667, 1:97.

132 Manzini, 139: "Conchiudo, che nella pittura, & egualmente nell'eloquenza, le migliori cose non SOhO le piu tenere, ma le piu robuste, e'l Sig. Gio. Francesco nostro, che non ha bisogno di Mercurio, che gli aditi la strada, ben se n'avide fin da giovinetto, e lasciando gracchiar'a quegl'ingegni effemminati, a quali non par dipinto nissuna cosa, che non sia miniota, attende al sodo."

133 Manzini, 136-38: "Melanzio, che scrisse tanto dottamente de pictura, che tutte le catedre di quest'arte gli consentiron semper il primato, esortando il pittore a dar nervo a suoi penelli, disse, che nissuna cosa era piu conducente, anzi necessaria, ad invigorir la maniera, che'l darle un poco di durezza. . . . Quello stile, e quella maniera, ch'e nata alla verita, voglio dir, che preme ad haver'anima, e spirito, non ama il liscio; ma'l ri-salto. Vuol esser nervosa, e robusta, non molle, e morbida; e quindi e, che tractanda se non praebeat. Ogni camelo c'ha da portar gran some, ha sempre qualche asprezza, e qualche gibosita sul dorso. . . . Questa morbidezza, e tenerezza, che a prima vista porta con esso seco un non so che d'allettativo, e di plausibile, considerata, esatta, e diligente-mente, non frutta altro, che'l semplice, e transitorio diletto dell'incontro; ma per lo contrario la contrario maniera, che, armata di ferro, non di fiori, si offre subito a gli occhi, possente per investirli, genera ammirazione, e talvolta anche terrore. Spende maggiori talenti. Ha sempre come giovare, insegnare, trattenere, rapire. Veggonsi in essa i muscoli; (138) s'ammiran gli scorzi, si disamino l'anatomia, si scuopre l'arte, e ricono-scono, e riandano gli studj gia fatti nella scuola, e ravvisandovi noi dentro tutta la nostr'arte, par che ci sforzi ad amarla, come cosa in qualche porte nostro. Quella tenerezza slavata, sfianchita, smorta, & imbiaccata e piu tosto da pittrice, che da pittore."


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