This essay will examine how portraits of sisters and other female pairings have been culturally coded to produce certain types of readings; through a comparative analysis of a variety of sisters portraits from the Renaissance to the early nineteenth century, as well as the work of Denis Diderot, we will show how the construction of female intimacy shifted between presenting a safe form of domestication on the one hand, and a questioning and subverting of familial and heterosexual relations on the other. We will argue that it is perhaps because feminine bonding was perceived to require less surveillance and to be inherently safe that the boundaries of intimacy in paintings and narratives were allowed more varied permutations.


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pp. 641-655
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