In the Courts of Religious Ladies Art, Vision, and Pleasure in Italian Renaissance Convents Giancarla Periti

Publication date:
15 Mar 2016
Yale University Press
304 pages: 279 x 216mm
100 color + 110 b-w illus.
Sales territories:


This fascinating study considers the poetic and mythological artworks made for elite female monastic communities in Renaissance Italy. Nuns from the patrician class, who often disregarded obligations of austerity and poverty, commissioned sensually appealing, richly made artifacts inspired by contemporary courtly culture. The works of art transformed monastic parlors, abbatial apartments, and nuns’ cells into ornate settings, thereby enriching and complicating the opposition of religious and worldly spheres. This unconventional monastic and yet courtly decoration was a new form of art in the way it entangled the sacred and the profane. The artwork was intended to edify both intellectually and spiritually, as well as to delight and seduce the viewer. Based on extensive new research into primary sources, this generously illustrated book introduces a thriving female monastic visual culture that ecclesiastical authorities endeavored to suppress. It shows how this art taught its viewers to use their eyes to gain insights about the secular world beyond the convent walls.

Giancarla Periti is Associate Professor in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Toronto.

“Periti’s well documented, beautifully illustrated book provides insight into life and art within elite Renaissance convents.”—Choice