By Her Example: Exemplary Womanhood and Female Homosociality in the Matronage of Isabella d’Este and Eleonora di Toledo




Rawlings, Bianca

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This thesis considers subjects of exemplary women and female homosociality in the sixteenth-century matronage and networks of Isabella d’Este, marchesa of Mantua, and Eleonora di Toledo, duchess of Florence. Themes of female kinship and agency in the commissions of both elite women allow for an expanded discussion of female matronage networks which have so far been overshadowed by discourse on networks of male patronage. Through Jonathan Nelson and Richard Zeckhauser’s economic model of “game theory” and the theory of “signaling,” this thesis examines the connections between the self-promotion of elite women and how themes of agency and homosociality fed into methods of signaling status and forming one’s public persona. Moreover, this thesis seeks to establish a working definition for the term “matronage” as part of an effort to effectively convey the complexities of female self-promotion and the homosociality present within the networks of elite women.



Isabella d'Este, Gender, Eleonora di Toledo, Matronage, Sixteenth-century Italy, Italian Renaissance