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  • Patronnes et mécènes en France à la Renaissance
  • Keith Cameron
Patronnes et mécènes en France à la Renaissance. Études réunies et présentées par KATHLEEN WILSON-CHEVALIER avec la collaboration d’Eugénie Pascal. (L’École du genre, Série Nouvelles recherches, 2). Saint-Étienne: Université de Saint-Étienne, 2007. 682 pp, ill. Pb €27.00.

In her Introduction, Kathleen Wilson-Chevalier places the twenty-four studies in this weighty volume in their social and political context and stresses the vast range of domains in which women played an increasingly important role as patrons and sponsors. Often such a role receives but a fleeting mention, with more emphasis being [End Page 342] placed on the male contribution. When the information is condensed as in this publication, the effect is impressive and makes us reappraise our view of what women brought to societal development at the time of the Renaissance. In Part I, three broad surveys discuss the role women played in (1) the patronage of manuscripts and, subsequently, the printed book (Susan Broomhall), revealing that ‘les femmes s’intéressaient à un large éventail de matières de grande portée intellectuelle’ (p. 58); (2) the evolution of the theatre (Aurore Evain), where their support provided them with ‘un moyen d’expression à la fois personnel et politique’ (p. 98); and (3) the letters written by certain noblewomen (Eugénie Pascal), in which there are a number of valuable sociological observations — for example, girls normally received presents of clothes and jewellery not toys or mind-stimulating material, whereas boys were given toys, small weapons, ponies, and so on (p. 103). The twenty-one chapters of Part II concentrate on high-ranking members of the nobility: Anne de France (Elizabeth L’Estrange, Élodie Lequain), Anne de Bretagne (L’Estrange, Cynthia Brown), Marguerite d’Autriche (Jens Burk) and Louise de Savoie (Mary Beth Winn), the abbesses of Fontevrault (Michel Melot), Marguerite de Navarre (Barbara Stephenson, Anne Funke), Alienor d’Autriche (Annemarie Jordan and Kathleen Wilson-Chevalier), Diane de Poitiers (Sigrid Ruby), members of the Guise family (Penny Richards and Jessica Munn, Camille Grand-Dewyse, Dora Polachek), and, finally, Catherine de Médicis (Sheila ffolliott, Caroline zum Kolk, Laurent Odde, Chantal Turbide, Alexandra Zvereva, Michèle Bimbenet-Privat, Kerrie-rue Michahelles), who exemplifies so clearly the close relationship between patronage and political design — ‘il est difficile de comprendre l’ampleur de son émancipation, comme femme politique et comme mécène, sans considérer ses commandes artistiques comme un tout’ (Odde, p. 510). Aided by 127 figures and sixteen pages of colour plates, we are confronted with a plethora of details (and yet there are fewer known records of female patronage than of male patronage) that illustrate the influence of noblewomen in matters as diverse as architectural initiatives at various levels, including abbeys, homes, gardens, and monumental tombs, and in the commissioning of stained-glass windows, paintings, portraits, jewellery, objets d’art, court performances, literary and religious works, polemical tracts for purposes of propaganda, and so on, not forgetting their often-overlooked political motivation. This publication, in which the vast majority of the contributions are by female scholars, introduces a wide range of gender issues and gives in-depth treatment to a theme that is of considerable importance.

Keith Cameron
Grasse, France


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pp. 342-343
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