Forbidden fruit A history of women and books in art

Christiane Inmann

Book - 2009

Throughout the ages, from Sappho to Mary Wollstonecraft, extraordinary women have exposed other women to the world of letters and the freedom it brings. This unique cross-cultural account highlights the accomplishments of women writers and educated women, and provides beautiful reproductions of renowned artworks that illustrate their achievements and the worlds they inhabited, thereby also tracing the social functions of the portraits of reading women as well as the types of books they read. The... book further explores the changing circumstances of women's access to literature and education throughout the centuries in different cultures and societies. Chronologically arranged, the volume opens in ancient times, exploring civilizations as diverse as Mesopotamia, Greece and China. It travels to the Middle Ages and Renaissance Europe, to modern England and America. Along the way readers are treated to profiles of Ban Zhao, Murasaki Shikibu, Christine de Pisan, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Phillis Wheatley and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among many others. Artworks featuring reading women range from Pompeii frescoes to important works by artists through the centuries, including Hans Holbein, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Roy Lichtenstein, Balthus and Gerhard Richter. The result is a beautifully illustrated cultural history of women reading, as fascinating and inspiring as the accomplishments it honours.

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Subjects
Published
Munich ; New York : Prestel c2009.
Language
English
Physical Description
216 p. : col. ill. ; 29 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9783791340777
3791340778
Main Author
Christiane Inmann (-)
  • First steps: from the cradle of civilization to the Middle Ages
  • Piety and luxury: women reading in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries
  • Connecting with books: the nineteenth century
  • Reading becomes art: the twentieth century.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Like a foil-wrapped, imported chocolate, this delectable treat satisfies the armchair art historian's sweet tooth. Inmann provides a colorful exploration of the value of reading and writing to women through history. Many readers can name a handful of women writers, e.g., Lady Murasaki, Christine de Pizan, and Hildegard of Bingen. The author chronologically fleshes out the story with more examples, from the time when reading was affordable to few women, to when it was limited by social and ethical mores, to when a woman could suffer ridicule, shunning, or physical harm because of it, to a time in the very recent past, when women are encouraged to learn as well as read for pleasure. Women artists are also emphasized, such as Sofonisba Anguissola, and sumptuous illustrations from master artists help tell the story, wherein books in the paintings have meaning relating to the woman's identity, or to the artist's bias. VERDICT An engaging, affordable bit of luxury, great for gift giving, reading to a loved one, or savoring for yourself; a first book from an internationally experienced economist and art consultant.—Nadine Dalton Speidel, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L. [Page 63]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Throughout the ages, from Sappho to Mary Wollstonecraft, extraordinary women have exposed other women to the world of letters and the freedom it brings. This unique cross-cultural account highlights the accomplishments of women writers and educated women, and provides beautiful reproductions of renowned artworks that illustrate their achievements and the worlds they inhabited, thereby also tracing the social functions of the portraits of reading women as well as the types of books they read. The book further explores the changing circumstances of women's access to literature and education throughout the centuries in different cultures and societies. Chronologically arranged, the volume opens in ancient times, exploring civilizations as diverse as Mesopotamia, Greece and China. It travels to the Middle Ages and Renaissance Europe, to modern England and America. Along the way readers are treated to profiles of Ban Zhao, Murasaki Shikibu, Christine de Pisan, Jane Austen, the Brontèe sisters, Phillis Wheatley and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among many others. Artworks featuring reading women range from Pompeii frescoes to important works by artists through the centuries, including Hans Holbein, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Roy Lichtenstein, Balthus and Gerhard Richter. The result is a beautifully illustrated cultural history of women reading, as fascinating and inspiring as the accomplishments it honours.