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Monica Ciobotar on Louise Lawler’s Rude Museum
4 November, 2022
In this essay, Louise Lawler talks about the deconstruction of the conventions in cultural institutions defined throughout history by by men. In the church as in the museum, the pervading power of men made women feel uncomfortable and powerless in the religious sphere.
This process begins with illustrations of the 14 apostles, none of them female, constituting one of the first moments when the image of women was left behind, up to the point where the image of women is not only neglected by also used to empathize with the power of men.
In the church of Saint Francesco in Assisi, Giotto depicted important episodes of the canonization of Saint Francesco using masculine tendencies in the symbolism of the frescos. A high point of male power is represented in Apparizione di san Francesco su un carro di fuoco, where the praying brothers and sons of Saint Francis are found in a hovel outside the city. Although the saint is bodily distant from his sons they behold their blessed Francis on a fiery and shining chariot and the hovel shines with a great light. This illustration is perceived from a masculine perspective in that it depicts Saint Francesco in a chariot, a man-made object. The fiery light accentuates the idea of power which the saint achieved by relinquishing his belongings and orientating himself towards divinity.
The frescoes Giotto made at the end of the 13th century in Assisi do not depicting women in a negative way, but rather neglect them, they are simply not included. With the intensification of politics and money in the church, which was initiated and continued by men, the image of women is not only irrelevant but also insulted. In the dome of Orvieto in the fresco Damned Hell, Fra Angelico depicts a woman powerless against the strength of men, the only character in a big crowd lying on the floor with no means of escape.