A Personal Vision of Women's History
In the fifteenth century, Christine de Pisan dreamt of building an ideal city for eminent and virtuous women, and with the help of her three "muses," the sisters Reason, Rectitude, and Justice, she reflected on the many women in history and mythology who might live together in this Cité des Dames. Almost exactly four centuries later, the American sculptor and feminist Harriet Hosmer envisioned a beautiful temple dedicated to the achievements of women. Now such a grand idea has been realized.
Judy Chicago's Dinner Party, which opened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in March 1979, is a synthesis of the decorative and fine arts; it is theater, literature, history; it is a complex set of ideas; it is monumental in conception and execution; it is a transcendental vision of women's history, culture, and aspirations. As the title suggests, The Dinner Party uses some of the most familiar objects and experiences of women's lives to illuminate that history through the domestic ritual of serving food, and the material components of that ritual—painted porcelain tableware and embroidered napery. 1
The Dinner Party is installed within a large room which is entered through a hallway hung with large woven banners that give an idea of what to expect inside. The table within , three wings in the form of an equilateral triangle, is forty-six feet on each side and rests on a raised floor covered with porcelain luster tiles. Each of the thirty-nine place settings honors an individual woman, historical or mythical, whose name is embroidered on the front face of her table runner . 2 For each of the table settings there is a fourteen-inch painted porcelain plate, its design specific to that woman, and an embroidered runner whose design is specific both to the woman and to the historical period in which she flourished. Linen napkins, porcelain flatware, and gold lustered... [continues]
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