Gender and Ritual in the Baptistery of Padua

Speaker: Anne Derbes - Professor Emerita, Hood College

One of the most remarkable fresco programmes of the later Trecento can be found in the baptistery of Padua.  The frescoes, painted by the Florentine artist Giusto de’ Menabuoi in the mid-1370s, include a dazzling depiction of paradise in the dome and narratives that span all of salvation history, from Genesis through the Apocalypse.  It was a woman, Fina Buzzacarini, who funded the painting as well as structural changes to the interior.  Though the building continued to function as Padua’s baptismal church, the renovations transformed it into the mausoleum of Fina and her family. In this talk I use visual analysis to argue that to a surprising degree, Fina exerted control over the images.  While Fina is the focus, I also argue that the programme is site-specific in many ways: the images respond to and participate in the ritual enacted in this sacred space.  Ultimately, gender and ritual intersect in the multi-layered frescoes of the Padua baptistery.


Anne Derbes works on narrative painting in late medieval Italy.  She is the author of Picturing the Passion in Late Medieval Italy; co-author of The Usurer’s Heart: Giotto, Enrico Scrovegni, and the Arena Chapel in Padua; and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Giotto. Her articles have appeared in The Art Bulletin, Speculum, Gesta, and The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes.  She is currently completing a monograph on the baptistery of Padua.

The lecture will be followed by a reception in the Research Forum Seminar Room.

This lecture is part of the Medieval Work in Progress seminar series and jointly organised with Giotto’s Circle.

Organised by Dr Jessica Barker (The Courtauld) and Professor Joanna Cannon (The Courtauld). 

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23 Oct 2019

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London