The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, unframed view © 2018 RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Michel Urtado
More than half of the famous artworks on most top-ten lists depict women. But none were made by women. Art historian Heidi Applegate considers the centrality of women as subjects in the history of art, including two of the most well-known examples: Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
Da Vinci portrayed his sitters looking out toward—and often directly at—the viewer, inviting us into a conversation with them. From the Renaissance forward, some of the most celebrated, and also the most controversial nudes feature women who similarly gaze directly out at the viewer.
Applegate examines the shift from idealized to realistic portrayals of the female nude, and also how history's most renowned paintings by men compare to similar subjects by women artists Lavinia Fontana, Angelica Kauffman, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Suzanne Valadon, and Alice Neel, among others.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.