You’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe?: An Albrecht Durer Portrait of a Young Venetian Renaissance Woman

venetian-girl-abrecht-durerAlbrecht Durer, painting during the European Renaissance, gives us a striking image of the “new” woman of his time.

Here is no humble devotee to medieval religious orders, eyes cast downward and veiled before men, but someone simultaneously displaying herself as persona and SURVEYING her scene with penetrating eyes.

Her hair, netted and “tamed” (from the back) but with loose and free fringes at its sides, suggests a woman astute in navigating that fine civilizational line between the energetic Dionysian naughty and the self-controlled Apollonian nice.

The skin of her upper breastplate is exposed and on display—but so is her intellectual forehead, which seems to jut forward in aloof and penetrating thought.

She is both stage and actor; an evocoteur of sexual longing and her own nuanced ideas, which she will no doubt make actionable with a subtle intelligence.

In this painting are the hints of what humanism and feminism would become:

  • the liberation of the individual from overly regimented religious restraints
  • the glorification of body and mind
  • obsessive attention to objectification and subjectivity, and a working with its tensions
  • the assertion of persona into the world
  • the increasing equality of the sexes

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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