Scattering Light and Colours: The Traces of Some Medieval Women Artists

 Beato de Girona - artwork by female artist named Ende/EnScattering Light and Colours: The Traces of Some Medieval Women Artists

By M.-Elisa Varela Rodríguez and Teresa Vinyoles Vidal

Published Online (2008)

Introduction: At the time of Romanic art, during a period in which few artists left their name to history, some women had the explicit desire to leave a trace; we should not interpret this fact as the fruit of a possible narcissm, but rather as a way of expressing their close relationship with life, of making genealogy, that is, of establishing bonds with each other and also with women of the past and with us. They wanted to avoid not only that the memory of their passage through life be lost, but also to show their possibility of recreating life, using the ancient and sacred art of giving forms and colours to the unrepresentable divinity, through weaving, through embroidery, that is, through their most daily, most utilitarian tasks, and also through drawing and painting.

The visual searches of these medieval artists, the drive to paint, illuminate, embroider… arise out of the encounter with other women of their time and connect with the women of today. These artists that have left us their names show us how it is possible to cultivate one’s individuality without leaving aside the relationships in which talent comes to maturity.

Historically, women have not helped to construct the myth of the artist or his/her work, nor the myth of genius; they sign their works by simply reaffirming their woman’s name the one with which they identify themselves: Maria, Elisava, En, Teresa, which makes them unique, and recognises their authorship.

Artists create through signs. Also in relation to women artists, we are attracted by a sign, a physical trace of the hand, the handwriting or the signing of their name. In the “escriptoria” of the high Middle Ages there were women copyists and illustrators, not only religious women but also laywomen, who were educated and knew Latin; in the one at Vic Cathedral we can document at the beginnings of the eleventh century Guisla – married to Guibert – and her daughter Alba; mother and daughter are defined as grammarians, and we find them writing some documents. The love of sketching that is emitted from the hand that writes, paints, or embroiders, expresses the longed for memory of the body, the desire to fill the distance between the represented thought and the body that produces it.

In the dialogue that can be derived from this process, different languages can meet and come together; they can come forth from this encounter, on occasion as words, on other occasions as images.

Click here to read this article from Duoda, Women Research Center. University of Barcelona

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