Jane Hatter

Jane Hatter

CRIA Fellow
Musical Women in Visual Culture of Early Sixteenth-Century Italy: Gender, Sexuality, and Knowledge
Jane Hatter


Jane Hatter is an Associate Professor of musicology in the School of Music at the University of Utah. Her research focuses on musical communities in Europe circa 1500, with strong interests in pedagogy, gender, and visual culture. Jane’s first monograph, Composing Community in Late Medieval Music: Self-Reference, Pedagogy and Practice (CUP, 2019), examines what self-reference in music can tell us about bonds shared by late fifteenth-century musicians with a common pedagogical toolkit and life experience. Dr. Hatter has also published on musical time in early sixteenth-century Italian paintings, intersections between popular devotions and ecclesiastical liturgy in Renaissance motets that include or quote Marian prayers, and the sights and sounds of early modern commemorative activities.

Project Summary

In early sixteenth-century Italy, musical knowledge was valued for its status as a liberal art and as a social grace for both sexes. At the same time, its potentially lascivious influence was a source of anxiety, especially for women. Nowhere is this paradox more at play than in images representing musical women. Creators of representations of female musicians drew upon their audiences’ understanding of contemporary intellectual and social conventions around music to generate meaning. While the audience for these works was primarily male and the artists relied on male access to musical knowledge, the images also raise the specter of female musicality. Because they are underrepresented in some forms of documentation, many musicologists have assumed that women had little access to music, but recent scholarship has shown that women were active in both domestic and public spheres. In the early sixteenth century, semi-public performance was associated with diametrically opposed groups of women—musical and often noble nuns and socially aspiring but morally dubious prostitutes and courtesans. Somewhere in the middle of these extremes, lay women tread a precarious path between the social expectation of musical knowledge and skill, and fears about the potential libidinous influence of music on their persons and reputations. This project seeks to use knowledge of early modern musical practices to enhance understanding of representations of women musicians, and to use visual culture to increase understanding of sixteenth-century female musicality, restoring to some degree the voices of these musical women.