Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Fine Arts

Committee Chair

Fulton, Christopher B.

Author's Keywords



Palma, il Vecchio, 1480?-1528; Women in art


This thesis is an investigation into the world of sixteenth-century Venice, encompassing a group of female portraits by artist Palma Vecchio. I utilized many primary and secondary sources concerning Renaissance society, including several which discussed the roles of women during the Renaissance. This thesis is divided into four chapters that discuss the purpose and evolution of the female portrait, ideal poetic beauty, and the authority the courtesan carried in both the poetry and the painting in Venice. Chapter one covers a short history of the portrait as well as an investigation of how the female portrait evolved from the profile image to the frontal three-quarter image. It also discusses how Palma Vecchio would have adhered to the early concepts of the portrait, yet came to depict women in an idealized fashion that came to be the Renaissance Venetian artist's specialty. Chapter two explores the issue of poetic beauty upon the paintings of Palma Vecchio and its birth from the Humanist movement, as started by the fourteenth-century poet Petrarch. Chapter three discusses the role of the courtesan predominantly in Venice. An educated and sophisticated woman who sold sexual favors, performed a considerable role in the world of the female portrait in Venice, particularly the images by Palma Vecchio. Chapter four, the conclusion, concretizes the issues of ideal poetic feminine beauty, the courtesan in female portraiture, and how these two factors carried an enormous role not only in the female portraits of Palma Vecchio, but in the social fabric of Venice.