2022 Undergraduate Dissertation Prize Winner
We are delighted to announce that Felix Jones (University College London) is the winner of the Association for Art History’s 2022 Undergraduate Dissertation Prize for the essay, ‘Hags and Holy Women: Understanding Old Women in Early Modern Italian Painting’. An abstract of this dissertation can be found below.
As our members and readers will know, winning and shortlisted essays are assessed thoroughly on the quality of their originality, research and method, as well as form and content.
Shortlisted runners up
From a considerable number of well-researched and insightful essay nominations, we also shortlisted the following two worthy runners up:
Grace Page (University of Oxford) for the essay ‘Remixing the Canon: The Construction of an Oppositional Black Aesthetic at the Intersection of ‘Hip Hop’ and ‘High Art’.
Povilas Gumbis (University of Essex) for the essay ‘Rejecting the Western Notion of Homogeneity in Eastern European Art: An Analysis of the Lithuanian Humanist Photography of Antanas Sutkus’.
Prize winning Abstract
This essay is an investigation into the representations of old women in early modern Italian painting which aims to understand the contradictory status of ageing women, whereby they appear to have been simultaneously abhorred and respected. In order to understand how these images functioned, I firstly explore the representation of old women according to two contrasting binaries: the ‘hag’, typically characterised by low social class, distorted or exaggerated physiognomy and moral transgression, and the ‘holy woman’, who is shown to be pious, decorous and serene in old age. By looking at these two categories in turn, I show how old women did not only function as memento mori or embodiments of negative characteristics, but were complex bearers of meaning, whose figurations were at times informed by pervasive literature, namely anti-Petrarchan poetry and conduct literature. Unravelling this binary, I focus on a role undertaken by old women which has till now been under-represented in scholarly literature: that of mediator, both familial and epochal. The latter portion of this essay, which focuses on the representation of old women as Jews, sheds light on the ambivalent conception of both categories and ultimately expounds the paradoxical and unstable positioning of female old age in early modern Italy, with its connotations of lineage, motherhood, antiquity and sin.
The Dissertation Prize is assessed by our Doctoral and Early Career Research (DECR) committee. Many thanks to those on the committee who read and shortlisted this year’s submissions. The quality and originality of this year’s undergraduate essays has been extremely high. Thanks also to all who submitted nominations for this prize.
Read more about our 2021 Undergraduate Dissertation Prize winner and shortlist.
Image credit: Paolo Veronese, Giustiniana and Attendant, detail of Sala dell’Olimpo vault, c.1555, fresco, Villa Barbaro, Veneto.