Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art History and Visual Culture

First Advisor

James Hutson

Second Advisor

Steven J. Cody

Third Advisor

Sarah Cantor


This paper analyzes the concept of disegno in its effect on the success of the female artist in the early modern era. Achieving disegno effectively meant that an artist had reached a renowned level of intelligence and artistic mastery. Formulating this principle in one's art was taught in studios and academies by use of gradual monitored practice and the study of the human figure. Disegno elevated the social status of the artist, as wealthy patrons understood the talent behind the work of an artist that could display it in their paintings. As women were not admitted into most academies and were prohibited from viewing a nude model, understanding and applying disegno was especially difficult. This in turn made the art of women, and women themselves inferior to their male counterparts. Previous scholarship on the development of the artistic principles that underpinned disegno focused on its importance in the arts and its part in the edification of male artists, while this study argues that the routes notable female artist had to take to gain success despite their lack of training further hindered their chances of artistic success. Applying a feminist theory to the tropes of women artists in the early modern era provides an understanding to the concept of disegno as it related to their bodies of work.