Teaching Widowed Women, Community, and Devotion in Quattrocento Florence with Lucrezia Tornabuoni and Antonia Tanini Pulci

Academic Article


  • In the Middle Ages and the early modern period, a woman’s social identity changed when her husband died. She became both a symbol of his loss, and a living monument to his legacy—an ambassador between the living and the dead. Responsible not only for preserving his memory on earth, a widow was also expected to pray on behalf of her husband’s soul, to work to rescue him from the torments of Purgatory through her dutiful appeals. Widows were at once asked to pray quietly alone, and tasked with work central to society: the salvation of souls after death. This dual identity—sometimes isolated, yet of fundamental importance—makes the widow an opportune subject for students of early modern conceptions of the relationship between religion and gender. In this essay, I look at widows in Lucrezia Tornabuoni’s Judith, Hebrew Widow and Antonia Tanini Pulci’s The Destruction of Saul and the Lament of David. Taught side-by-side, these texts provide students with multiple, interconnected ports of entry into the early modern world, encouraging an investigation of how the two women writers worked to place widows at the center of their respective stories, rather than relegated to the margins.
  • Publication Date

  • March 9, 2018
  • Published In

  • Religions  Journal
  • Edition

  • N/A
  • Keywords

  • Antonia Tanini Pulci
  • Lucrezia Tornabuoni
  • Medici family
  • Quattrocento Florence
  • digital humanities
  • sacre rappresentazioni
  • widowhood
  • widows
  • women writers
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 76
  • End Page

  • 76
  • Volume

  • 9
  • Issue

  • 3