Women and the Italian learned academies, 1525-1700

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Accademia degli Spensierati

This week’s TLS (April 5) carries a full two-page ‘Commentary’ by  Jane Everson and Lisa Sampson summarising some results from their ongoing AHRC-funded research project on ‘The Italian Academies 1525-1700: The first intellectual networks of early modern Europe’. They examine the hitherto greatly undervalued role of women in the life of these early academies, not simply as the passive object of men’s praise or attention but as active participants in debates and publications. They point out that the extent of the contributions by women varies by creative genre – strong in lyric poetry and in painting but more problematic in the world of drama and the theatre. Involvement of women as patrons – rarely authors – of dramatic productions was quite common, especially in the courts of North Italy. But the ambiguous social status and dubious respectability of performers – actors, singers, musicians – must have caused many early modern mothers to heed Noel Coward’s advice, ’Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington’. It’s a fascinating survey which can be followed up, with full details of the research, personnel and activities, on the project’s website. (DM)

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One thought on “Women and the Italian learned academies, 1525-1700

  1. DM says:

    A letter by Nora Lambert (Philadelphia Museum of Art) in this week’s TLS (April 26) on the Commentary by Jane Everson and Lisa Sampson draws attention to what she calls an early affirmative action programme. In 1716 the Accademia di San Luca in Rome relaxed the admission requirements for women: from then on women only needed to be endorsed by a simple majority of voting members, rather than by the two-thirds majority demanded previously (which continued to be a requirement for men).

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