Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Dr. Wendy Katz

Second Advisor

Dr. Andrea Bolland

Third Advisor

Dr. Heather Richards-Rissetto

Date of this Version

Spring 5-2020


Anderson, Antje. "Gendering Art History in the Victorian Age: Anna Jameson, Elizabeth Eastlake, and George Eliot in Florence." MA Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2020. PDF,


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Art History, Under the Supervision of Professor Wendy Katz. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2020

Copyright Antje Anderson, 2020.


This thesis investigates how three professional Victorian women writers, Anna Jameson, Elizabeth Eastlake, and George Eliot, wrote about Renaissance art in Florence. As nineteenth-century women, they were excluded from certain realms of knowledge, agency, and influence. This exclusion (complicated by their privilege in terms of class, nationality, and education) influenced the way they experienced and wrote about art. The introduction addresses how changing modes of travel, broader access to publication, and art history’s gradual emergence as an academic discipline helped shape their careers as women art writers—the well-known “Mrs. Jameson” as a popularizer of art history for a broad readership; Lady Elizabeth Eastlake as an art connoisseur who mostly published anonymously, best known as the wife of the director of the National Gallery in London, and George Eliot as a novelist who used her historical novel Romola to convey challenging ideas about women and art against the backdrop of Renaissance Florence.

Each of the chapters following the introduction focuses on a representative art site in Florence—one public, one museal, one sacred—and traces how the three writers’ gender and their status as professional authors shaped how they wrote about these sites. Chapter 1 discusses how the British reaction to the Italian Renaissance and to the nationalist Risorgimento movement impacted their writing about public art in the politicized male space of the Piazza della Signoria, using Michelangelo’s David as a major example; Chapter 2 shows how the emergence of national museums in the 19th century shaped their approach to seeing canonical masterpieces in the Palazzo Pitti, especially the Madonna della Seggiola by Raphael; lastly, Chapter 3 addresses how the shift in Victorian taste towards the Quattrocento affected the way they experienced the frescoes of Fra Angelico in the Monastery of San Marco, only partly accessible to women, with special focus on their discussions of his Crucifixion in the monastery’s chapterhouse. The conclusion addresses the afterlife of these responses in feminist art history.

Advisor: Professor Wendy Katz