(Trans)gender and the dating of woodcuts

Today, I’ve been reading Merry Wiesner’s book «Women and gender in early modern europe«, a book that makes generalisations about all of europe during the early modern period, stating things that puzzles me, sometimes things that are plainly wrong. Of course I can’t control her source material, because the book doesn’t have a single footnote. It’s obvious that by «gender», she means means «women», by the way. Not that writing a book about women is wrong, but if she had called the book «aspects of womanhood in early modern europe» or something like that, it would have been more fitting. After all, even men belong to a gender.

In the chapter about lesbianism, wiesner mentions «Maria of Antwerp (1719-81) who was arrested twice for marrying a woman. In the trials, she described herself not as a woman attracted to other women, but as a man in a woman’s body, indicationg perhaps that, like those who arrested her, she had difficulty figuring out how to describe sexual love between two women». Everytime wiesner returns to the example of Maria, she repeats that she had to use the «man in a woman’s body»-metaphor to describe her own lesbianism. Not once does she discuss the option that Maria might have been telling the truth. I wonder why it’s so hard to imagine that a woman living as a man, who dress like a man and wants to marry another woman, and who even states in court that she’s a man in a woman’s body, might be genderqueer. I’m not saying it’s the only option, but it’s really not that far fetched.

The woodcut below is called «recipe for marital bliss» and is made by the Augsburgian artist Abraham Bach. The caption reads: «The qualities on the part of the wife which merit a beating, according to the artist are laziness, talkativeness, vanity and lust for other men, and on the part of the husband drunkenness, laziness, and not supporting his family». According to Wiesner, it’s dated 1680, which must be about a century too late. What made me happy, is how similar the wife’s dress is to Anton Weihenmayer’s Woman at the virginal from 1586. Both woodcuts are from augsburg and the clothes are almost identical. This makes me happy. What i can’t figure out, is whether it’s socks or breeches the woman is wearing.


2 responses to “(Trans)gender and the dating of woodcuts

  1. Og typisk deg, – du henger deg opp i draktene de har på seg. Mrsmt. Interessant post. Fortell gjerne om mer av et du leser. Jeg liker å lese om det.

  2. uh, man skriver da for et publikum. Se på kommentarene på livejournal så får du se 🙂

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