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Title: Illustrating Female Peasant Labor in Middle and Late Byzantine Iconography
Subtitle: Visual Pretexts towards 'Gender Equality' or Depictions of 'Physical Subordination'?
Author(s): GERMANIDOU, Sophia
Journal: Byzantion
Volume: 88    Date: 2018   
Pages: 163-185
DOI: 10.2143/BYZ.88.0.3285449

Abstract :
This paper is a contribution to the field of Byzantine Gender Studies, which is still at an early yet promising stage of research, especially when dealing with secular/lay women of low societal status. It investigates a limited number of illustrations, originating from Byzantine iconography, depicting women working in agricultural tasks. The majority of them are inspired by Old Testament narrations and are represented in manuscript miniatures dating back to middle and late Byzantine period (11th-14th centuries). Beyond the description of the scenes, aim is to demonstrate how female figures are rendered: their physical appearance (age, facial and body characteristics, their 'working uniform'), in what kind of peasant activity they were usually engaged in, if and which equipment they used during their work. Moreover, an attempt is made to provide interpretations for the illustrations presented based on a 'feminist' sociological approach, taking account of the artistic limitations and cultural implications. Textual sources and archaeological data are additionally employed to reinforce the outline of the key-points.

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