The Birth of the Baptist: Gender, Patronage, and Salvation in Fifteenth-Century Florence


ACLS Fellowship Program




The project pinpoints and explains the emergence of one of the most ubiquitous subjects of the Italian Renaissance-St. John the Baptist, represented as a child, in devotional art. I show that a fifteenth-century religious poet, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, who was also a member by marriage of the ruling Medici family, was responsible for this hugely influential iconographical invention. No art historical research to date has demonstrated female influence on the visual arts during the crucial art historical period of the Florentine Quattrocento. An interdisciplinary analyses of vernacular devotional manuscript culture, and a historiographical reconsideration of the political construction of power in Medicean Florence, underpin the study, giving it broad relevance to scholars of early modern Italy.