My paper investigates Peter Paul Rubens’ female portraits in terms of the male and female gaze, psychoanalytic analysis, and historical context. My research will support the idea that Rubens painted women in a sexualized manner based on what Foucault coins the male gaze. The paintings evaluated in this project include portraits of Rubens’ wives, Isabella Brandt and Helene Fourment, and portraits of wealthy patrons such as Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria, Anne of Austria, and Marie de’ Medici. It is incorrect to view these paintings as pure, complete depictions of identity because women in this time were always defined and observed by men.However by deconstructing the male gaze and also acknowledging the role of the active female gaze of the subjects of these works, a more complex construction of female identity is uncovered. Throughout history the feminine has been generalized to be passive and silent. My project aims to build on recent feminist scholarship that works to uncover more responsible and representative descriptions of the images of women in history.
Michel Foucault, “Discipline and Punish” from Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, (Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2004), 549-565.
Patricia Simons, “Women in Frames: The Gaze, the Eye, the Profile in Renaissance Portraiture,” edited by Norma Broude and Mary Garrard, The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History (New York: Harper Collins, 1992): 44.
Mendoza, Ilenia Colón
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
School of Visual Arts and Design
Orlando (Main) Campus
Length of Campus-only Access
van Ravenswaay, Gabrielle C., "Subjects of the Gaze: Rubens and his Female Portraits" (2017). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 209.