Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Blood Mother/milk Mother: Breastfeeding, the Family, and the State in Antonio De Guevara's Relox De Principes (Dail of Princes)

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Blood Mother/milk Mother: Breastfeeding, the Family, and the State in Antonio De Guevara's Relox De Principes (Dail of Princes)

Article excerpt

IN The Origin of the Milky Way Tintoretto paints Juno's lactating breasts creating the galaxy (Figure 1). In this scene, Jupiter attempts to guarantee the immortality of his son born of the mortal Alcmene by holding Hercules to suck on the sleeping Juno's breast. She awakens however, and her spilled milk gives rise to the Milky Way and to lilies on earth. While this painting points to the fascination lactating women held for artists of the day and to the power to create and nurture life, it also problematizes the role of the father at this stage of the child's life. Indisputably, breastfeeding is an area exclusively reserved for women.1 Yet, in this work and many of the Renaissance treatises on how to raise a family, the father appears as a persuasive force in determining the child's best interests. How does this authoritative figure exercise his dominant role within the family structure? How is he able to govern the family politic even at the stage when the child's principal needs can only be fulfilled by the mother, either blood mother or milk mother (a term used to designate the relationship between wet nurse and child)? Is it possible that breastfeeding forced men to concede at least some of the child-rearing authority to women and extend to them an independence that in other developmental stages was not granted?

In the Relox de Principes (Dial of Princes), Antonio de Guevara attempts to define the father's role in the traditional family structure. While the rules he lays down for marriage, pregnancy, and the child's education clearly point to the male as the authority figure whose decisions are incontestable, Guevara struggles to locate the father in an equally important role during the child's breastfeeding years.

Antonio de Guevara (1481-1545) is an overlooked Renaissance figure.2 Bishop of Guadix in Granada and later of Mondonedo in Galicia, commissioner for the Inquisitor General, official chronicler and travelling companion of Charles I (Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire), he formed part of the main political circles of the day. Guevara was also a prolific writer, whose writing played an important role in the development of Castilian literature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and was admired and translated all over Europe in his lifetime. In 1529 Relox de principes, which is an expanded version of his already famous Libro aureo de Marco Aurelio (Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius), is published and immediately becomes the favorite book of Charles I and later of his son, Philip II. In fact, according to Quentin Skinner, following the Bible the Relox is the most widely read book in sixteenth-century Europe (215). Guevara's manual for the education of princes was first published at a time when Charles I was struggling to unify Spain, a country whose customs, coinage, language and political institutions varied from one territory to the next. The Relox is divided into three books. The first explains how to be a successful Christian prince; the second, how the male reader should interact with his wife and raise his children; and the third describes the virtues of a prince. Located between two books dealing with the prince's role in governing the state, Book II's position within the text points to Guevara's attempt to link the needs of the state with the needs of the family.

It is only natural that Guevara would take a patriarchal view of the state and family and that he would feel entitled to speak on those subjects with authority because he himself was part of a patriarchal structure in a church that held enormous sway in Spain. The Holy Office of the Inquisition-an institution that was an instrument of royal policy and politically subject to the crown-regulated matters on family interaction. Although Alfonso el Sabio's Siete Partidas included laws that regulated family structures, including the role of the wet nurse and characteristics she should possess, official public policy on family values yielded to the provincial fueros. …

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