The Portrayal of Women Throughout History


This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.

A gallery that showcases artwork which portrays from notable cultures throughout history by Rosey Kenshol.

Female antropomorphic figure "Venus", Unknown, 40th-5th century B.C, From the collection of: Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indígena (MAPI), Uruguay
This Venus figurine from the prehistoric period is characteristic of its time. In art, the physical features/reproductive organs of the women were usually exaggerated because it was believed doing so would bring fertility.
Foundation peg-figurine in the shape of a praying goddess, Unknown, Early Dynastic Period, ca. 2500 BCE, From the collection of: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Much of Ancient Near Eastern art was created for religious purposes, and this figurine is no exception. The goddess is crudely carved with no real indication of clothing or a body, and her hair is possibly the only reason the fact that she is a goddess is discernible.
Statue of Lady Sennuwy, Unknown, 1971 B.C. - 1926 B.C., From the collection of: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Statue of Lady Sennuwy is characteristic of Egyptian sculpture--her pose is forced and rigid, the lines of her body geometric rather than curvilinear. The fact that she has a sculpture shows she was of nobility.
Large Female Figure with Incised Toes, 2500 - 2400 B.C., From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
This figurine is from the Cycladic culture located on various islands around Greece. She has a stiff figure. She is in the nude and probably meant to adorn a house or a gravesite.
Aphrodite and Eros, unknown, 100 BC - 0 AD, From the collection of: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
For the first time in history, a realistic (if not idealized) representation of women appears as a result of the Grecian obsession with perfection. Her clothes are delicately carved and the viewer gets the impression that her dress is soaked in water or simply transparent.
Etruscan figurine, unknown, -500/-480, From the collection of: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
Returning to the more crude representations of the human body, the Etruscans achieved an abstract portrayal of women. This terra-cotta figurine shows a woman in typical dress for the time with a simple hairstyle.
Juno, Unknown, early 2nd century A.D. - early 2nd century A.D., From the collection of: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Like the Greeks, the Romans developed a veristic style of sculpture; but while the men were portrayed in old age, women were depicted in their prime. In short, Roman art of women is idealized. This statue of Juno is no exception.
Mosaic of Ecclesia Romana, From the old St. Peter's basilica apse - XII century, From the collection of: Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco
Early Christian/Jewish Art was regularly hidden underground or inside churches. This mosaic is the personification of the Church of Rome; she is adorned with jewelry and a crown.
Two Panels depicting the Annunciation, Baptism of Christ and Crucifixion from the Antwerp-Baltimore Quadriptych, Netherlandish, ca. 1400 (Late Medieval), From the collection of: The Walters Art Museum
In the typical Byzantine style, Mary has a halo and doesn't seem solid despite her position in the chair. Her tunic drapes over her and covers her form completely.
Silk Velvet Textile, Unknown, Iran, 17th Century, 1600/1700, From the collection of: The Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar
This silk textile showcases the exquisite skills of the Muslim artists and is one of the most important silk works of its time. The rich colors indicate that this piece was expensive. Flowers and the flowing lines of the girls give this work a calming quality typical of Islamic art.
Head of femenine personage - Culture Ifé, Unknown, 10 th century - 12 th century, From the collection of: Fundación Alberto Jiménez-Arellano Alonso - Universidad de Valladolid
The lines in the face of this woman were considered beautiful for the Ifé culture, so this bust is idealized. Other than her skin, none of her other features are exaggerated.
Dintel 26, unknown, 0600/0900, From the collection of: Museo Nacional de Antropología, México
This relief shows a Mayan ruler receiving his battle armor from his wife. Neither figure is especially realistic and it's difficult to tell the difference between the female and male.
Benedictional, about 1030 - 1040, From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
While there are folds on the clothing, there doesn't seem to be a body beneath them. The figures dominate the architectural space, typical of illustrated manuscripts from the Romanesque period.
Blanche of Castile Instructing King Louis IX of France; Author Dictating to a Scribe, Unknown, between 1227 and 1234, From the collection of: The Morgan Library & Museum
This illustration doesn't have much variation in color, but the colors that are present are extremely expensive. Blanche of Castile is in a very stiff pose and the folds of her clothes still do not indicate a body underneath.
The Ognissanti Madonna, Giotto, 1306 - 1310, From the collection of: Uffizi Gallery
This painting of Mary is the first to suggest at a body beneath her clothing. The shading of her face makes her appear more realistic, and she comes exudes calmness and confidence.
Girl with Geisha, From the collection of: Dallas Museum of Art
The girl and the geisha in this ukiyo-e print wear clothing typical of Japanese culture at the time. The illustration has only the most basic contour lines, no shading or highlighting exists.
The birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli, 1483 - 1485, From the collection of: Uffizi Gallery
The Birth of Venus by Botticelli was unusual for the Early Renaissance, mainly because of the way he shunned realism, which was being used by da Vinci and Michelangelo at the time. Venus is pictured here as she emerges from the sea in strong contrapposto, sheilding herself with her hand and her long hair. Botticelli made her effortlessly beautiful, and admirers flock to her side, trying to get a look at her. Compared to previous paintings in the Gothic and Medieval Art, her anatomy is more pronounced, and Botticelli obviously had a considerable amount of knowledge about the body.
Venus of Urbino, Tiziano Vecellio, 1538, From the collection of: Uffizi Gallery
Characteristic of the Venetian painting style, Titian uses soft lines and glazes to achieve the appearance of chiaroscuro. The woman almost appears to be glowing, and her position and the lighting contributes to the sensuality of the composition. She also looks at the viewer directly, exuding confidence about her position and her body. In favor of making the painting sensual, she is not anatomically correct; if she were to stand, her legs would be too short and her feet would not properly support her.
Madonna with the long neck, Parmigianino Mazzola, 1534 - 1540, From the collection of: Uffizi Gallery
This painting by Parmigianino is emblematic of the era of Mannerism; each figure is elongated, almost grotesquely so, and contorted into almost impossible positions. The Madonna in this picture is dressed in a classical style and her face is soft as she looks upon her son.
Adam and Eve, Albrecht Dürer, 1504, From the collection of: The Morgan Library & Museum
This engraving of Adam and Eve from the Late Northern European Renaissance by Albrecht Durer shows an extensive knowledge of anatomy, but in a way that is highly unrealistic. Eve isn't portrayed as woman as much as a smaller version of a man with breasts and long hair.
Perseus Freeing Andromeda, Peter Paul Rubens, 1638, From the collection of: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
This painting by Rubens, an important Baroque artist, captures the dramatic flare of that time period perfectly. Andromeda stance is strained as she struggles to free herself, and she is also the focal point of the composition. She looks up hopefully as she is freed, and the lighting around her contributes to the dramatic atmosphere.
Madame Bergeret, François Boucher, possibly 1766, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Boucher, an influential Rococo artist, regularly depicted the nobility in the fête galante style, and this portrait of Madame Bergeret is no exception. She is seen walking through superfluous foliage in extremely elegant clothing and hairstyle, which is intricately adorned with small flowers. While her clothing is so crisp the viewer can imagine the texture, the composition of her face is soft, with a blush emphasizing her femininity. The flowers all throughout the work give the painting an overall playful feeling.
The women in this painting are depicted in a typical Neoclassical style; their hair and clothing resemble that of Rome, and so does the attention to detail on their robes and to accurate anatomy.
The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, 1781, From the collection of: Detroit Institute of Arts
This painting depicts a nightmare incarnate, and the way it holds the girl down symbolizes how much a bad dream can weigh down on someone. The girl's hair is luscious and curly, and her body almost stretches the length of the canvas, making her the obvious focal point of the composition.
Olympia, Edouard Manet, 1863, From the collection of: Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Olympia by Edouard Manet was inspired by Titian's Venus of Urbino, but unlike the Venus, Olympia regards the viewer coldly, her face displaying no emotion. She reclines in an almost disinterested manner, and the stark contrast of her skin tone to the background makes her seem even colder. Keeping with the artistic trends of the time, Manet used very little modeling or shadow, rather relying on color to startle the viewer. Also interesting is the fact that she wears jewelery, a flower in her hair, and shoes, but she is completely nude, something which created a scandal at the Salon of 1865.
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, Dorothea Lange, 1936; printed early 1960's, From the collection of: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
This photograph is easily the most influential photograph of Lange's career. The mother looks worried for the future, but knows she has to be strong for her children, who depend on her. She supports the pyramidal composition, just as she supports her family.
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