Inspired by Art Herstory: Elisabetta Sirani’s ‘Portia Wounding her Thigh” (1664)

Portia_woundingAbove: Portia Wounding her Thigh (1664) by Elisabetta Sirani

At first glance this painting is quite shocking–it is literally a woman cutting her own thigh on purpose. However, Sirani intended this painting to be a powerful statement on women’s political agency and the drastic measures they have to go to in order to be taken seriously. Whitney Chadwick, author of Women, Art, and Society, explains that with this painting:

Sirani chose the moment at which Portia wounded herself to test her strength of character before asking Brutus to confide in her […] its other meanings are more complicated and return us to the issue of how sexual difference is produced and reinforced. Stabbing herself deeply in the thigh, Portia has to prove herself virtuous and worthy of political trust by separating herself from the rest of her sex […] Removed from the private world of women to the public world of men, Portia must assert her control over speech before she can claim exceptional status. She demonstrates, finally, that women who prove their virtue through individual acts of bravery can come to be recognized as almost like men.


This painting seems like very dark material to be inspired by for an outfit of all things. However, it is important to note that women are often assumed not to be able or willing to contribute to discussions on violence (for example, consider how there’s very few female directors of horror movies and such), and we’ve decided to rebel against that old belief. Also of note with this panting which we base this outfit on is, “the rich colours and the confident brushwork displayed by the hand of a woman established Sirani’s reputation in Bologna as a phenomenon.”

Untitled #138

Nadia tarr, 380 CAD / Zara printed blazer, 105 CAD / Jeffrey Campbell platform heels, 145 CAD / LK Designs leather wrap bracelet, 125 CAD / ASOS chain necklace, 22 CAD / ASOS charm necklace, 11 CAD / Jigsaw silk scarve, 110 CAD

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