A 14th Century Woman Pleasuring Herself—With Reading

I like the image below because the woman’s expression, as she holds a book and looks down upon it, is serene, and her other hand, in her lap, is suggestive of self-pleasure.

Here we have an image, from prior to the Renaissance, of a woman without a child, reading, and taking pleasure in reading, and experiencing inner self-reliance and privacy (she doesn’t appear to know that she is being looked at).

Her independent meditation is religiously sanctioned, and the medievalist male is reassured of her “obedience” to the patriarchy by her head being covered and by reading an “approved” book, but herein is a woman sitting apart from domestic duties, men, and children, and is on her way to individuality, independence, modernity, and feminism.

She also gives the appearance of coming out of the blue shell of her covering, as if she is being born as a persona. And her androgenous, flat chested form suggests that she is a woman transcending her traditional sex and gender roles, and belongs to the life of interiority and the mind. 

saintly-woman-reads-scripture

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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One Response to A 14th Century Woman Pleasuring Herself—With Reading

  1. Anonymous says:

    Why wouldn’t you put any information about the painting. As in, who painted it? Unknown? School, scholar!

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