Analyzing the artistic patronage of famous and lesser known women of Renaissance Mantua, and introducing new patronage paradigms that existed among those women, this study sheds new light the social, cultural and religious impact of the cult of female mystics of that city in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. Author Sally Hickson combines primary archival research, contextual analysis of the climate of female mysticism, and a re-examination of a number of visual objects (particularly altarpieces devoted to local beatae, saints and female founders of religious orders) to delineate ties between women both outside and inside the convent walls. The study contests the accepted perception of Isabella d'Este as a purely secular patron, exposing her role as a religious patron as well. Hickson introduces the figure of Margherita Cantelma and documents concerning the building and decoration of her monastery on the part of Isabella d'Este; and draws attention to the cultural and political activities of nuns of the Gonzaga family, particularly Isabella's daughter Livia Gonzaga who became a powerful agent in Mantuan civic life. Women, Art and Architectural Patronage in Renaissance Mantua provides insight into a complex and fluid world of sacred patronage, devotional practices and religious roles of secular women as well as nuns in Renaissance Mantua.
Sally Hickson is Associate Professor of Renaissance art history at the University of Guelph. Her work explores courtly culture, secular imagery, patronage studies, the history of collections and constructions of gender and identity in early modern visual culture. In addition to working as a researcher in the field of architectural theory and Renaissance treatises from manuscript to printed book at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, and teaching Liberal Arts at Brock University, she has taught courses on Italian art, architecture and cultural history in Venice, Florence and Rome, and has given conference papers in Florence, Faenza, Ferrara, New York, Toronto, the University of Cambridge and many other cities. She has been the recipient of the H.P. Krauss Fellowship in early books and manuscripts at the Beinecke Library at Yale University (2009), and the Natalie Zemon Davis Award from the Journal Renaissance and Reformation (2010). She is the author of Women, Art and Architectural Patronage in Renaissance Mantua: Matrons, Mystics and Monasteries (Ashgate 2012), and the co-editor, with Dr. Sharon Gregory, of Inganno -- The Art of Deception (Ashgate, 2012). She has also contributed essays to the anthologies Marriage in Premodern Europe : Italy and Beyond (University of Toronto: 2012) and Isabella d’Este, la Prima Donna del RInascimento (Mantua: 2001). She is currently working on serialized portrait images of women in the social, domestic and architectural contexts of Renaissance Italy, and on Duke Federico II Gonzaga as prince and patron of Mantua. She has contributed articles to the journals Arte Lombarda, Civiltà Mantovana, Art History, and Renaissance & Reformation. Since 2010, Sally has been President of the Universities Art Association of Canada/L'Association des Arts des Universites du Canada (UAAC/AAUC). www.uaac-aauc.com