Female body male body: The valiant Hungarian women of Eger and Szigetvár from the 16th century in historiography, literature, and art - PDF

CULTURE, MEDIA & FILM RESEARCH ARTICLE Female body male body: The valiant Hungarian women of Eger and Szigetvár from the 16th century in historiography, literature, and art Julia Papp Cogent Arts & Humanities

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CULTURE, MEDIA & FILM RESEARCH ARTICLE Female body male body: The valiant Hungarian women of Eger and Szigetvár from the 16th century in historiography, literature, and art Julia Papp Cogent Arts & Humanities (2016), 3: Page 1 of 17 CULTURE, MEDIA & FILM RESEARCH ARTICLE Female body male body: The valiant Hungarian women of Eger and Szigetvár from the 16th century in historiography, literature, and art Received: 19 October 2015 Accepted: 25 January 2016 Published: 17 February 2016 *Corresponding author: Julia Papp, Art Historian, Research Centre for the Humanities of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Art History, Budapest, Hungary s: Reviewing editor: Lincoln Geraghty, University of Portsmouth, UK Additional information is available at the end of the article Julia Papp 1 * Abstract: The question of whether the characteristics of the genders are determined by anatomical, biological, or physiological factors or influenced by society and culture (or perhaps a mixture of the two), in other words whether the masculine and feminine personality traits are inherent or they are shaped by our education and the expectations of our society, is still debated in psychology, sociology, anthropology or, for example, among the researchers of the anatomy of the male and female brains. Throughout history, the theological, philosophical, and historiographical schools had different beliefs about whether the differences or the similarities between the genders are more significant. Both sides used biblical (Old Testament) texts to prove their opinion: that Eve was made from Adam s rib is proof of the secondary role of women, however, the fact that humans (both male and female) were created in the image and likeness of God means that they are inherently equal. The egalitarian philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment also denied the psychological differences between men and women, claiming that the soul has no gender. Subjects: Cultural Sexuality; European History; Literary History; Military & Naval History; Social History of Art; Women s & Gender history ABOUT THE AUTHORS Júlia Papp, art historian, research fellow Awarded University Doctor s Degree summa cum laude in 1989 followed by PhD Graduation in Since 2009 works in the Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Art History. 2007: Publication of a book on the beginnings of artwork photography in Hungary. During the computer cataloguing of Engraving Collection of the University Library of Budapest discovered 12 vintage photographs by Roger Fenton, the pioneer of English photography. (Photographs of Roger Fenton Photographs Rediscovered. Exhibition in the University Library of Eötvös Loránd University. Budapest, 2008.) 2012: Oeuvre catalogue of Johann Blaschke ( ), a book illustrator in the Austrian Empire. 2014: curator of the exhibition in the Petőfi Literary Museum in Budapest titled Chapters form the history of the education of Hungarian women.working as editor on the handbook which presents Hungarian fine arts in the 19 th century. PUBLIC INTEREST STATEMENT The paper presents the literary and historical mentions of Hungarian women who fought in battle against the Ottomans in the 16th century both in Eger in 1522 and in Szigetvár in They are the most well-known Hungarian examples of warrior women, a trope that can be traced back to biblical, mythological and classical historical sources. While the story of the women fighting in Eger shows up first in the works of foreign historiographers, the women of Szigetvár based on a Hungarian epic poem made soon after the siege, appeared first in Hungarian, and later in Italian humanist poetry and historiography. The motif was also popular in Hungarian art during the 19th century. The paper casts light on how the patriarchal society not only accepted but also praised the women s cruelty and will to fight in extreme circumstances, even though these attributes were usually condemned. The trope of female heroism is an important part of modern gender studies The Author(s). This open access article is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 license. Page 2 of 17 Keywords: warrior woman; Hungary; 16th century; role reversal; gender studies; historiography; literature; art 1. Introduction In a study written by Erich Fromm titled Man-Woman (published in 1951), he emphasizes that even though the biological differences between the two sexes lead to differences in their personalities which cannot be ignored, these are significantly influenced and altered by societal factors, meaning that the characteristics of the men and women of a given society are defined by which roles they are told to fulfill, their place in society, and the expectations regarding their behavior. The field of gender studies, which has its origins in the feminist philosophy of the last third of the 20th century, focuses more on societal and cultural influences than on biological factors, trying to move away from those approaches which either consider only men or only women, instead examining the complex history of not only the relations between genders but also of gender identities. This study focusing on the 16 17th centuries wishes to answer the question of how much the behavior of women was allowed to deviate from the socially expected ways in situations different from the normal (for example, during a war where their lives and freedom was directly threatened), how these circumstances temporarily altered the societal expectations, and how this lead to women being allowed to act in certain masculine ways. It must be emphasized that during this time gender roles were much stronger and stricter; therefore, it happened less often and was less accepted to behave unlike expected form one s gender than in the period starting from the beginning of the 20th century up to now. Crossing the borders between the genders could be accepted only in extreme circumstances. In the early modern period, a woman wearing men s clothes meant that they were basically seen as having a male body and a male identity the way we define them today. For example, in Shakespeare s plays the women who are dressed like men are treated as men by the other characters, while nowadays a short-haired woman wearing pants and a necktie could only be seen as a woman. The authors of the descriptions in this study who wrote about the women participating in the war against the Ottomans in the 16 17th centuries, using weapons and occasionally wearing armor which at that time meant men s clothes emphasized how these women abandoned some of their characteristics which were considered to be traditionally feminine, such as being controlled by their emotions and thus being unable to fight, instead they ignored their grief, sorrow, and fear during the battle. Participating in the public sphere at least on a micro level, performing masculine tasks, such as fighting with weapons or encouraging and inspiring their fellow soldiers also linked them to the world of men. Of course, it must be emphasized that in these examples we are not talking about what is today known as a transgender identity, but rather about a temporary alteration of one s appearance and behavior in extreme circumstances in ways that go against the gendered expectations of society. The importance of the texts shown later is increased by the fact that even though until the 19th century the women appearing in historiographical works were almost exclusively rulers, famous or infamous women, the main characters of the descriptions in this study were common women who became part of the chronicles and historiographical texts not because of their rank or their relationship with a famous man, but in their own right, because of their own deeds. These texts contrasted the misogyny often appearing in European historiography, theology (for example in the witchhunts), and literature, since the bravery, determination, and stalwartness of the women fighting in a battle for a noble goal was often shown by the (male) authors to be not only an example for the men fighting alongside them, but their deeds are also encouraging the men and women of the coming generations to be patriotic and loyal. Even though in the Middle Ages and early modern period the Old Testament prohibition of women wearing men s clothes was still very much alive, in some circumstances society not only tolerated but actually encouraged the female body to temporarily become a male body both in function and Page 3 of 17 appearance. Women who fought for their countries in men s clothes and armor were a peculiar case of such a role reversal. The subject of this study, the topos of valiant Hungarian women from the 16th century is one of the examples. Recently, researchers of the history of gender have focused their attention on how women as a gender were historically depicted in literature, 1 arts and philosophy, and how women s role in society was determined. 2 They highlighted that the anthropology of women, such as their qualities and characteristics, were first examined in detail in Western Europe during the 15th century. Even though in these tractates, which were often based on the theories of antique philosophers, most typically Plato, we can find both views that emphasized the subordination of women and views that claimed that the two genders were essentially the same, the authors at that time did not fundamentally question the traditional gender roles. 3 But in the medieval and early modern period there are examples of real and fictional crossing of gender boundaries and role reversals. 4 For example, it was accepted when female saints dressed in men s clothes to protect their chastity. But cross-dressing in medieval society, even in extreme circumstances, was not indisputably accepted; one of the theological arguments against Jeanne d Arc was that she dressed in clothing and armor typically worn by men, which was forbidden by the Bible. 5 The canon of the strong warrior women was developed in Western Europe during the 14th 15th centuries. The female version of the Nine Worthies in literature and arts was called the Nine Worthy Women (Les Neuf Preuses). It was a less standard, occasionally varying list of names first primarily containing ancient heroines from the Theban Cycle or amazon queens (Sinope, Lampeto, Penthesilea) and a Scythian empress called Tomyris, 6 who defeated Cyrus the Great. In the woodcut series by Hans Burgkmair from the 16th century, there are depictions of three Pagan, three Biblical (Esther, Judith, Jahel), and three Christian heroines, one of whom was St. Elisabeth of Hungary. 7 The amazons were important participants in the medieval trope of strong, valiant women, together with the biblical female figures who fulfilled God s will, and thus an unequivocally positive attitude was maintained towards them. However, the opinion about the amazons was ambivalent partly because their actions and habits contradicted the accepted patterns of female behavior, and thus opposed the order of the world created by God. The disdain was based on the notion of the cruel and immoral, promiscuous amazons, though a parallel trend also existed, which has been passed down to us in the Troy and Alexander Romances (Alexanderroman), and presented the characters of the brave Penthesilea with her virgin sisters in arms who gave help to Troy, the amazon queen Thalestris or the valiant and virtuous Camilla of the Volsci in the Aeneid the Latin equivalent of the Greek Penthesilea, whom Enea Silvio Piccolimini compared to Jeanne d Arc. 8 Though women in the Renaissance played a more significant role in the intellectual and political life than previously, many authors had the opinion that they could only exceptionally become exemplary heroines, viragoes comparable to men. Most of these cases involved crossing the border between the two genders, which could manifest in wearing men s clothing, accomplishing brave deeds and having traits typically attributed to men; virtues like extraordinary physical or mental strength, skills to exercise power. 9 The strong, warlike woman (femme forte) was an important type of the exemplary woman. There were several exhibitions and publications that presented pictorial and textual depictions of this ideal. 10 Such exhibitions were organized at the Kunstmuseum in Dusseldorf in 1995, at the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt titled Die Galerie der Starken Frauen in 1996, 11 and at the Klingenmuseum in Solingen titled Schwert in Frauenhand. 12 The exhibition in 1995 displayed French and Italian paintings, engravings and drawings from the 17th century and presented mythological, biblical, legendary, and historical heroines and queens. In the last quarter of the 16th century during the time of the Counter-Reformation, the topos of the femme forte, which had been part of the Marian iconography, became more nuanced: the strong women 13 depicted in the engravings and paintings became antique goddesses, amazons, and other characters from legends and history. They defended their virtue or faith and personified marital fidelity, patriotism, perseverance, and sacrifice. 14 Illustrated moral philosophical tractates from the Page 4 of 17 17th century 15 were also displayed at the exhibition, which presented the exemplary lives of noted women, among them some strong ones, and occasionally drew parallels between the deeds of heroic men and famed women Women in Hungarian literature in the 16th 17th centuries Similarly, the opinions about the qualities and abilities of women in Hungary in the previous centuries often moved between extremes. The views that emphasized the unpredictable nature and inherently wicked character of women were supported by biblical traditions (remember the role of Eve in the original sin). At the same time, the appreciative attitudes toward women also had religious roots (the cult of the Virgin Mary, the respect of the female saints). The Evil Women, written by Kristof Armbrust (Ormprust) around 1550, is an early Hungarian example of the negative opinions written about women. 17 Another misogynous text published in Lőcse in 1653 pretended to be an educational book, a mirror for women in which the author emphasized the erroneous ways of women (laziness, gluttony, hypocrisy), and compared them to animals (pigs, snakes, donkeys, weasels, dragons) though he used earlier works as sources. 18 On the other hand, writings that emphasized the positive characteristics of women also became popular during the revival of the antique literary and artistic traditions beginning in the Renaissance period, which mentioned famous antique exemplary women to be considered models. Using the story of the Greek historian Plutarch, Miklós Bogáti Fazekas published his work Szép História. Az tökélletes Aszszony állatokról (On the Perfect Women) in Kolozsvár in In another writing titled Aspasia asszony dolga és az jó erkölcsű asszonyoknak tüköre (Lady Aspasia s Deed and the Mirror of Virtuous Women) (1587), which was published in the same town in 1591, he told the story of Aspasia, the lover of the Persian king Cyrus. Some Hungarian authors also regarded female courage and heroism as valuable attributes. István Kolosi Török, a Unitarian minister in the 17th century, praised women in several poems and gave many biblical and antique examples of female virtues and mentioned the valiance of women, which can be as important for one s country as the bravery of men. 19 Kristóf Paskó praised female heroism in his poem in 1662 about the siege of the Transylvanian town Nagyvárad, adopting the topos of the amazons from Greek mythology. He writes that the women of Nagyvárad helped the male defenders when they had become exhausted. One of the women whose left breast was ripped off by a cannonball dressed the wound with her shawl then returned to the fight and killed a valiant bey with her dagger. The author compared the women of Nagyvárad to the glorious Penthesilea and her fellow warrior women The valiant women at the siege of Eger (1552) The literary mentions and artistic depictions of the valiant Hungarian woman first appear during the Middle Ages. Part of the legend of Saint Ladislaus I, a Hungarian king who lived in the 11th century, is the brave girl who wounded a Cuman warrior fighting against Ladislaus in both his leg and neck in the Battle of Kerlés in The scene is depicted in several murals from the Middle Ages. In the Unitarian church of Homoródkarácsonyfalva, (today part of Romania) is a mural made in the 14th 15th centuries, which shows the girl holding a halbert and a sword. The valiant Hungarian warrior woman was also a popular theme in Western European historiography and literature. It was undoubtedly connected to the trope called Propugnaculum et antemurale Christianitatis, that is the shield and bastion of Christianity, which in the European public consciousness was related to Hungarians fighting against the Ottomans since the middle of the 16th century. The sufferings of the country, personified as a female figure called Hungaria, at the hands of the pagan Ottomans, and the heroism of the Hungarian soldiers fighting against the Turks spread thanks to innumerable pamphlets, duplicated graphic works, and reports of ambassadors, partially in hopes of gaining financial and military support for the war against the Ottomans. 21 Page 5 of 17 Even though several Hungarian literary and historical works have commemorated the victory of Eger in 1552 ever since the year of the siege, during which a small group of Hungarian defenders successfully repelled the attacks of the vast Ottoman army, the story of the women of Eger appears first in the works of foreign historiographers. The Italian historiographer reporting on the Ottoman siege of Eger in 1552, Ascanio Centorio degli Hortensi presented two episodes to illustrate the valiance and heroism of the women of Eger. 22 The author emphasizes the heroic deeds of two of the women fighting like lionesses. One young girl, whose mother had just died from being hit by a huge rock, instead of crying killed two Turks with the blood-soaked rock, then wounded several more with her sword. Another woman was asked by her mother to mourn for her husband who had been killed in battle, but the woman said that there is no time to grieve while her husband has yet to be avenged. She killed three Ottomans, and only then did she pay her last respect to her husband. During the description of the deeds of the valiant women of Eger, Centorio mentioned as an analogy, therefore he must have known it well, the legend of the ancient Greek amazons and the Spartan women defending their city. Similarly, his German contemporary, the humanist Melchior Junius from Wittenberg, compared in his Cicero publication the bravery of the women fighting during the siege of Eger to the heroism of the Spartan women described by Pausanias. 23 By describing the heroic deeds of the women of Eger for half of the complete siege report, and the last sentence of the description claiming that their heroism shows everyone the strength of patriotism, Centorio put such a significant emphasis on them that their story could become an exemplum. In Boccaccio s mentioned collection of women s bibliography, the enlarged edition made in 1596 by Francesco Serdonati, the chapter titled Donne Vngare is about the heroic deeds of the two women of Eger. It is after the mention of the valiant Hungarian woman who cuts off the heads of two Turks with one swipe of her scythe during the siege of Székesfehérvár in It also contributed to the foreign spread of the stories about the valiant women of Eger that they were in the popular publication of Hieronymus Ortelius (Oertl) of Augsburg in the 17th century, illustrated with maps and engravings. 25 The heroic deeds of the two amazons of Eger can also be read in several foreign his
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