Art History Festival | Festival Launch

Gregory Perry, Chief Executive Officer, Association for Art History, and Caroline Campbell, Director of Collections and Research at The National Gallery and Trustee of the Association for Art History will launch the in-person programme and introduce our guest speakers:

Jill Burke, Professor of Renaissance Visual and Material Cultures, University of Edinburgh

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, about 1615-17. National Gallery

What Did Renaissance Women Think about Beauty?

Beauty is often associated with Italian Renaissance art, and particularly the beautiful women who acted as the models and muses for male painters like Raphael and Titian. What is less well known is that women themselves frequently discussed beauty in this period. What were the criteria for true beauty, and how could one attain it? Was it OK to wear makeup, jewellery and fashionable clothing, or was that a distraction from more lofty cerebral and spiritual aims? Early feminist thinkers debated how a concentration on manipulating appearance related to the nature of femininity, and worried whether it supported, or undermined claims for intellectual equality with men. On a more practical level, women frequently swapped recipes for skin and haircare – from wrinkle removal to perfume, to teeth whitening. Female artists, such as Sofonisba Anguissola and Artemisia Gentileschi, could represent themselves either meeting or departing from beauty ideals in their self-portraits. This talk will use these paintings as case studies, showing how they fitted into a wider discussion about women’s beauty, character and social roles.

This talk is supported by the Instituto Italiano di Cultura, Londra


Mahtab Hussain, Fine Art Portrait Photographer

British artist Mahtab Hussain uses photography to explore the important relationship between identity, heritage and displacement. He’ll explore these and other issues in conversation with Caroline Campbell, Director of Collections and Research at The National Gallery and Trustee of the Association for Art History.


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