Encounter both famous and unknown women through 13 works of art from the museum's collections. Discover the importance of the woman as an endless source of inspiration for artists from antiquity to the 20th century. Although, at times, she is reduced to ideals of beauty which awaken fantasies and desires, on other occasions, she is portrayed as an aggressive, brave, and powerful being. Audio tracks to accompany the exhibits are available on the museum's audio guide.
This sculpted portrait of a woman represents Julia Domna who died in 217, a princess from Syria and wife of Septimius Severus, Roman emperor from 193 to 211.
Her unibrow and abundance of hair—no doubt a wig—with locks gathered and tied at the back of her head in a flat bun, are both characteristic of representations of the Empress.
A woman with a bare bust appears to be emerging from this medallion. Her half-closed eyes and her partially open lips create a disturbing and sensual image.
Her hair is elegantly styled with a hairnet holding back all but one strand, which is tied above her brow with a decorative headband. The feathered cap placed on her head completes the look. The decorative headband brings a touch of refinement, further reinforced by the large necklace.
The roundness of her shoulders, the oval shape of her face, the tilt of her head, the curved feather, and the sinuosity of the drape all echo the medallion's curve.
This piece of art from the 16th century, with its unique presence, is reminiscent of the themes of women and love that were dear to the poets Pierre de Ronsard and Louise Labé.
The coarse fabric of her dress, the apron, the bronzed skin, and the appearance of her hairstyle reveal the image of a woman of the people, bestowed with natural beauty.
According to art historian Henri Focillon, the power of this painting lies in its encapsulating "the portrait of a class, of a time, of their somber virtues.
Lyon Museum of Fine Arts
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Photos: © MBA Lyon - Alain Basset, Stéphane Degroisse, Mathilde Hospital