The exhibition's paintings, sculptures, furniture, medals, prints, and books, from Bowdoin's collections and beyond, opened the window to the historic context of marriage in Renaissance Italy. Collectively they provided insights into Renaissance views on the nature of men and women; suggested the virtues of chastity, courage, and moderation; and presented young noble men and women whose arranged marriages were intended to strengthen military alliances and stabilize governments by providing heirs.
A colorful Italian painting in the Museum's collection depicting nymphs, goddesses, a love-struck shepherd, and his worried parents, inspired this exhibition. The painting once ornamented an early fifteenth-century Florentine wooden marriage chest (cassone) and interpreted scenes from Giovanni Boccaccio's epic and seductive romance, The Nymphs of Fiesole. The painted cassone would have been proudly displayed in the bride's public procession to her new home.
Curated by Associate Professor of Art History Susan E. Wegner, Beauty and Duty: The Art and Business of Renaissance Marriage examined the manner in which art played a vital role in the rituals and celebrations of Renaissance marriage. The exhibition included loans from museums and libraries around the country. The project was supported by grants from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Robert Lehman Foundation, the Cowles Charitable Trust, and the Fisher Charitable Foundation of Maine. Publication available.