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'Dearest Wife, Most Famous Woman': Gender, Commemoration, and Women's Funerary Monuments in Rome, 1550-1750

Cymbala, Amy (2016) 'Dearest Wife, Most Famous Woman': Gender, Commemoration, and Women's Funerary Monuments in Rome, 1550-1750. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines women’s funerary memorials produced in Rome from 1550 to 1750. Their numbers represent only a small share of the surviving funerary monuments made in these two centuries. They survive as proof that some women’s achievements and characters were considered worthy of public recognition at a time and place where women’s activities have been assumed to be domestic and negligible. Some of these memorials were modest floor plaques and slabs, others framed tributes attached to walls and pillars, and a few were grand structures dominating entire walls in a family chapel or in prominent locations in the aisle of Rome’s most prestigious church: St. Peter’s. These memorials represent almost all social classes, except of course wealthy individuals of both genders who chose to give to charity instead, or those too poor to afford this public record of their lives.
In order to understand these memorials, my first task was to find them and account for their prevalence. My database (Appendix A) now contains over five hundred examples, from which major patterns relative to their location, commission, and commemorative programs can be observed and analyzed. With selected case studies, I then show that the design of individual memorials both celebrated women’s roles in the private sphere, and praised their contributions to cultural and religious life in the city. As such, this thesis adds to the expanding body of scholarship on women patrons of Roman architecture, and adds a significant new dimension by considering the female patrons and subjects of public sculpture. This dissertation demonstrates for the first time that Roman women’s funerary monuments were part of complex (and sometimes conflicting) dialogues about the role of women in the papal city. Moreover, it revises traditional assumptions about gender tensions in Rome, revealing the ways women and their memorials provided desirable models of female accomplishment in the name of religious reform.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cymbala, Amyaec35@pitt.eduAEC35
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairHarris, Ann Sutherlandash@pitt.eduASH
Committee CoChairArmstrong, Christopher Drewcda68@pitt.eduCDA68
Committee MemberWeis, H. Anneweis@pitt.eduWEIS
Committee MemberSavoia, Francescasavoia@pitt.eduSAVOIA
Date: 28 September 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 22 April 2017
Approval Date: 28 September 2016
Submission Date: 11 August 2016
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 459
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Women's tombs, Renaissance, Early Modern, sculpture, gender, Italy
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2016 00:14
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2021 05:15


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