Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art History

Reader 1

Mary MacNaughton

Reader 2

George Gorse

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© 2016 Caitlyn D. Marianacci


This thesis examines a selection of eight photographs in the History Portraits series by American photographer, Cindy Sherman, produced from 1989 to 1990. The photographs are based on Renaissance paintings of biblical and secular women painted by old master artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Raphael. Sherman focused on the female types of Biblical mother and femme fatale, as well as wives and models. These types are defined in their relation to men and are depicted by men. In Sherman’s reinterpretations of their portraits, she retells the stories of these women in ways that reaffirm their independence and power that have been shrouded in a history told and controlled by men. With herself as her model, she altered aspects of the images, using the technique of caricature for humor as well as critique. Sherman subverts the idealization of the Renaissance portraits of women by exaggerating features and eliminating aspects of the original portraits to reassert the women’s individuality.