This article addresses the role of two late fifteenth-century Florentine writers, Lucrezia Tornabuoni de’Medici and Antonia Pulci, in articulating what was at stake for women who sought to engage in meaningful ways in their city’s charitable economy. The emerging role of female tertiaries or those who belonged to the so-called terzo stato, troubled the medieval distinctions between active and contemplative lives. Tornabuoni, Pulci, and their contemporaries found ways to contribute to the public sphere by combining features of active and contemplative lives into a form of vita mista, a mixed life that valued both public acts of charity and vernacular religious writing. Probing the intersection between religious and secular vocabularies in Renaissance humanism, the article argues that lay piety had a significant influence on fifteenth-century thought. Women in the early modern period, despite various limitations imposed on them, nevertheless created spaces for their expression and personal activity. This focus on women’s interest in lay organizations and the third orders in the Trecento and Quattrocento contributes to recent scholarship that challenges the notion of a thoroughly secular Renaissance.
Jane Tylus; Geographies of Charity: Women and the Vita mista in Renaissance Italy. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2014; 44 (2): 345–371. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-2647328
Download citation file: