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How to be a Renaissance Woman

An Untold History of Beauty and Female Creativity

Book cover of 'How to be a Renaissance Woman' by Jill Burke

Lively and intriguing ... You’ll never look at Renaissance portraits in the same way.

Maggie O’Farrell

Plunge into the intimate history of cosmetics, and discover how, for centuries, women have turned to make-up as a rich source of creativity, community and resistance.

The Renaissance was an era obsessed with appearances. And beauty culture from the time has left traces that give us a window into an overlooked realm of history – revealing everything from 16th-century women’s body anxieties to their sophisticated botanical and chemical knowledge.

‘How to be a Renaissance Woman’ allows us to glimpse the world of the female artists, artisans and businesswomen carving out space for themselves, as well as those who gained power and influence in the cut-throat world of the court.

In a vivid exploration women’s lives, Professor Jill Burke invites us to rediscover historical cosmetic recipes and unpack the origins of the beauty ideals that are still with us today.

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Date published
336 pages

About the author

Photograph of Jill Burke

Jill Burke

Professor Jill Burke is Chair of Renaissance Visual and Material Cultures at the University of Edinburgh. She has published widely on the history of art, gender and the body. She is currently Principal Investigator of a Royal Society-funded project, Renaissance Goo, working with a soft-matter scientist to remake 16th-century cosmetic and skincare recipes. She was on the curatorial team of ‘The Renaissance Nude’ exhibition at the J Paul Getty Museum and the Royal Academy, London in 2018–19. Her first book, ‘Changing Patrons’, questions the motivations behind Italian Renaissance art patronage and her second, ‘The Italian Renaissance Nude’, was nominated as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title in 2019.