Figuring Faith and Female Power in the Art of Rubens
Figuring Faith and Female Power in the Art of Rubens
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Table of Contents
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Chapter One. Samson and Dilemma: Rubens Confronts the Woman on Top
Chapter Two. Making Assumptions: Marian Tropes After Italy
Chapter Three
-Part One. Recycling Sovereignty: Maria de' Medici
-Part Two. Figuring Faith and Female Power: Isabel Clara Eugenia
Chapter Four. Peace Embraces Plenty: Queering Female Virtue at Whitehall
Chapter Five. Feminizing Rubens in the Seventeenth Century

Reviews and Features

"Figuring Faith and Female Power in the Art of Rubens is a necessary and theoretically complex series of essays that weave together visual analysis, patronage studies, queer and feminist theories, artist biography, and the changing landscape of politics, religion, and art theory in the seventeenth century. [...] Although primarily aimed at art historians, Lyon’s book will also appeal to readers interested in early modern attitudes about women’s interior religious lives, sexuality, and politics."
- Saskia Beranek, Illinois State University, Early Modern Women Vol. 16 No. 2 (Spring 2022)

"This richly illustrated study remains an important intervention to studies of Rubens and gender, as Lyon succeeds in demonstrating that Rubens was ‘not only a painter of women [but] a women’s painter’ (24). Her astute methodological framework facilitates a muchneeded self-aware and sophisticated appraisal of one of the titans of Baroque art. In doing so, Lyon models how art history can compellingly engage with political and theological ideas about the multifaceted roles women undertake – both in art and in life."
- Ana Howie, Art History (2022)

"Lyon’s book represents a useful source for new perspectives on Rubens’s relation to women and the representation of the female form. Her concluding epilogue, advocating for new modes of inquiry that expand feminist methodology beyond the scope of her book, points to a growing awareness of critical race studies, intersectionality of gender and race, and Queer theory by early modern art historians that opens new and welcome approaches to the history of art."
- Marilyn Dunn, Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies, 41.1 (2021)

J. Vanessa Lyon

Figuring Faith and Female Power in the Art of Rubens

Figuring Faith and Female Power in the Art of Rubens argues that the Baroque painter, propagandist, and diplomat, Peter Paul Rubens, was not only aware of rapidly shifting religious and cultural attitudes toward women, but actively engaged in shaping them. Today, Rubens’s paintings continue to be used -- and abused -- to prescribe and proscribe certain forms of femininity. Repositioning some of the artist’s best-known works within seventeenth-century Catholic theology and female court culture, this book provides a feminist corrective to a body of art historical scholarship in which studies of gender and religion are often mutually exclusive. Moving chronologically through Rubens’s lengthy career, the author shows that, in relation to the powerful women in his life, Rubens figured the female form as a transhistorical carrier of meaning whose devotional and rhetorical efficacy was heightened rather than diminished by notions of female difference and particularity.

J. Vanessa Lyon

J. Vanessa Lyon, who received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, is Associate Professor of Art History at Bennington College. Her essays concerning early modern British and Flemish art and religion have appeared in Word & Image, The Huntington Library Quarterly, and Art History.