Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Daughters of Artemis: The Huntress in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Daughters of Artemis: The Huntress in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Article excerpt

Richard Almond, Daughters of Artemis: The Huntress in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer; Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 2009). xiv + 202 pp; 42 plates. ISBN 978-1-84384-202-6. £45.00.

The argument of this beautifully produced book is that women of all social classes were involved in hunting during the medieval and Renaissance periods to a far greater extent than has previously been assumed. The evidence cited is overwhelmingly visual, although occasional reference is made to Hterary sources and, still more rarely, to some of the few known historical documents relevant to the subject. The main value of this volume Hes in its abundant quarry of examples, ranging from manuscript illuminations and a decorated bed head to prints, tapestries, and full-scale oil and tempera paintings. It is extremely useful to have the objects and action of such pictures elucidated at the literal level by a scholar expert in the history of hunting. Cultural critics tracing issues of gender and space wiU find new avenues in Richard Almond's discussion of the 'hunting theatre' and of the freedoms and dangers of the forest. Readers of romance wiU be intrigued to learn more about the erotic intimations of the presentation to a woman of the head or other part of the day's takings, a ritual of interest to anyone attempting to plumb the gendered depths of Gawain's reception of the boar's head in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Those of us with a special interest in understanding the compHcated relationships between Arthurian damsels and their birds will be gratified by Almond's collection of references to women's care of falcons and special proficiency in the art of hawking.

Almond is aware that some of his evidence is 'indirect', and notes that symbolic and 'world-upside-down' figures cannot be treated as straightforward statistical support for his thesis that, when it comes to hunting, 'women were there'. …

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