Clothing’s Impact on the Body in Italy and England, 1550–1650
Studies of early modern dress frequently focus on its connection with status and identity, overlooking clothing’s primary function, namely to protect the body and promote good health. The daily processes of dressing and undressing carried numerous considerations: for example, were vital areas of the body sufficiently covered, in the correct fabrics and colours, in order to maintain an ideal body temperature? The health benefits of clothing were countered by the many dangers it carried, such as toxic dyes, garments that were either too tight or voluminous, or harboured dirt and diseases that could infect the body. This article draws on medical treatises and health manuals printed and read in Italy and England, as well as personal correspondence and diaries, contextualised with visual evidence of the styles described. It builds on the current, wider interest in preventative medicine, humoral theory, health and the body in the early modern period by focusing in depth on the role of clothing within these debates.
Liturgical Gloves and the Construction of Public Religious Identity
Within the Catholic Church from around the tenth century onwards, liturgical gloves could be worn on specific occasions by those of the rank of bishop and above. Using a pair of seventeenth-century gloves in the Whitworth as a basis for further exploration, this article explores the meanings ascribed to liturgical gloves and the techniques used to make them. It argues that, within the ceremony of the mass, gloves had a specific role to play in allowing bishops to function performatively in the role of Christ.
Artists’ Printed Portraits and Manuscript Biographies in Rylands English MS 60
Rylands English MS 60, compiled for the Spencer family in the eighteenth century, contains 130 printed portraits of early modern artists gathered from diverse sources and mounted in two albums: 76 portraits in the first volume, which is devoted to northern European artists, and 54 in the second volume, containing Italian and French painters. Both albums of this ‘Collection of Engravings of Portraits of Painters’ were initially planned to include a written biography of each artist copied from the few sources available in English at the time, but that part of the project was abandoned. This article relates English MS 60 to shifting practices of picturing art history. It examines the rise of printed artists’ portraits, tracing the divergent histories of the genre south and north of the Alps, and explores how biographical approaches to the history of art were being replaced, in the eighteenth century, by the development of illustrated texts about art.
This chapter posits that from 1850 to 1950, Catholicism served as the major influence on Irish girls’ identity formation in the community and the family, but also that girls were integral to the creation of Ireland’s Catholic culture. Through an analysis of Irish women’s autobiographical writings and Catholic material and print culture, this chapter explores girls’ devotional experiences, such as the bishop’s visitation and First Communion. Devotional artefacts figure prominently in women’s autobiographical writings, reminding us that for girls, Catholicism was a material religion with a tangible physical presence, often lending itself to fantasy and the imagination. Chapter 2 also highlights the importance of girls’ and women’s relationships with each other. Women – nuns, grandmothers, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and particularly mothers – emerged as girls’ principal religious influences.
The conclusion summarises the main arguments that Irish Catholic women were far from passive in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite an increased Church-led Catholic patriarchal culture, l ay women did what they could from 1850 to 1950 to maintain autonomy and influence their faith.
Chapter 5 investigates women’s roles in devotional places and spaces. This was an age in which Catholic officials urged that women’s roles be essentially domestic and private and when, increasingly, women’s bodies were contained and controlled in disciplined spaces, including the Catholic chapel. Still, women resisted the civilising mission of the ‘devotional revolution’ by maintaining their commitment to vernacular landscapes and traditions. They also made themselves essential to the construction and upkeep of newly built chapels and became the main congregants at the chapel-mass. By demanding a central place in religious spaces, women complicated the divide between private and public and challenged the patriarchal consensus.
Chapter 4 offers a case study of the Irish Catholic home and material culture. This chapter looks further at religious iconography and Catholic artefacts. Exploring gender and consumption, it reveals that the growing power of home-based Catholicism depended on women’s consumerism and financial management. It also examines the central roles that mothers and grandmothers played in household devotions and prayers. The ways in which Irish women shaped religious experiences for themselves and their families during several key moments, such as the rosary and the station-mass, show how lay women created and maintained Catholic households and thus ensured the future of the Catholic nation.
Most historians of Catholicism have either ignored women or focused on the ways in which the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Church curtailed Irish women’s freedoms and opportunities. The Introduction to Irish Women and the Creation of Modern Catholicism suggests a different reality, establishing lay Irish Catholic women as actors, not observers or victims. It also examines the existing literature on women and Catholicism in Irish history, a literature that is scarce and suffers from the authors’ assumptions that Catholicism disempowered women. Lastly, the Introduction explains the research that has made this book possible and assesses the records that the author examined from archives in Ireland.
Catholic memoirists and diarists from the 1850s through the late twentieth century affirmed their affection and awe for their mothers, whom they depicted as self-sacrificing and martyr-like. In recent decades, however, scholars have assigned to the Irish mother a more sinister role, indicting her for colluding with priests and thus helping to instil a repressive and damaging Catholicism in future generations. Chapter 3, ‘The Irish Catholic mother’, debunks the martyr/villain trope through a detailed analysis of Irish Catholic motherhood. It compares constructions of motherhood (both contemporary and scholarly) with mothers’ real-life experiences. Mothers’ own words, particularly evident in their letters to bishops, demonstrate that they did not always work in tandem with the Catholic clergy but frequently negotiated the authority of clerics. Women asserted their autonomy within the home and over their children even as they made use of their status as mothers to demand that priests and bishops respond to their needs and wants.
Irish Women and the Creation of Modern Catholicism is the only book-length study of lay Catholic women in modern Irish history. Focusing on the pivotal century from 1850 to 1950, it analyses the roles that middle-class, working-class, and rural poor lay women played in the evolution of Irish Catholicism and thus the creation of modern Irish identities. This project demonstrates that in an age of Church growth and renewal stretching from the aftermath of the Great Famine through the early years of the Irish Republic, lay women were essential to all aspects of Catholic devotional life, including both home-based religion and public Catholic rituals. It also reveals that women, by rejecting, negotiating, and reworking Church dictates, complicated Church and clerical authority. Irish Women and the Creation of Modern Catholicism re-evaluates the relationship between the institutional Church, the clergy, and women, positioning lay Catholic women as central actors in the making of modern Ireland. It also contests views that the increasing power of the Catholic Church caused a uniform decline in Irish women’s status after the Great Famine of the 1840s, revealing that middle-class, working-class, and rural poor lay women fought with their priests, dominated household religion, and led parish rituals, thus proving integral to the development of a modern Irish Catholic ethos and culture.