Morten Hansen
The book Gender, Islam, and Artistic Performance in Grand-Ducal aims to rethink relationships between court and artists in absolutist societies as exemplified by grand-ducal Tuscany during Cosimo II (r. 1609-21) and Ferdinando II (r. 1621-70). The case of Tuscany in the seventeenth century is particularly intriguing. Rather than being monolithic, the court offered contrasting ideals along lines of gender, according to which artists positioned themselves and their works. While the grand duchesses used art to invent an image of sacrosanct rulership as they let themselves be portrayed as Catholic saints or Christian allegories and heroines, their male counterparts commissioned controversial erotic paintings for the Medici residences and staged comparisons between themselves and the Ottoman and Persian courts (then considered pagan by Christians) with their legendary splendor and ritual. Unlike their female counterparts, the men of the Medici family could transgress norms of sexual and religious decorum upheld by the Counter-Reformation Church to demonstrate a gendered, superior position.