Women of the Enlightenment age - Marija Teresė Tiškevičienė 0

Marius Vyšniauskas
www.kamane.lt, 2016-05-16
Fryderyk Dubois. The portrait of Marija Teresė Tiškevičienė, 1785. National Museum of Krakow, Poland

In brief: Before the 18th century, in order to self-actualize as an artist or politician, a woman had to turn the world upside down. Her main duties revolved around the family and did not exceed the limits of everyday life. So how did it happen that winds of emancipation contradicting the belief of Genoa humanist Ottaviano Fregoso (1470–1524) that "women are extremely imperfect beings who cannot be compared to men in terms of dignity" started blowing during the age of Enlightenment?


In the early Middle Ages a systematic education for women was hard to reach even in monasteries, but that in no way deterred the talents, for example Diemut von Wessobrunn (1060–1130), Herrade de Landsberg, (1125–1195) who were immortalized in the incunabula illustrations, frescoes of monasteries and religious poetry. Renaissance opened up more opportunities and although patriarchal law was still at play, for example, the Florentine garden gate was decorated with an inscription, "Geese, women and goats are not allowed" the influence of women had increased.

The women of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth were also publicly active during the age of Enlightenment. Polish historiography presents three good reasons for why this period was called the "female age." First of all women not only started to keep the written sources, but also became the object of public interest. Second, it was influenced by the political situation of the republic, when after 1772 women were assigned the patriotic education of young people that would ensure the continuity of the state. And finally, it was the lifestyle of women, characterized by better hygiene habits that affected the state of their health.


Marija Teresė Antanina Žozefina Poniatovska was born on November 28, 1760 in Vienna, in the family of the last Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ruler's younger brother, Austrian army Lieutenant-General, Duke Andrius Poniatovskis (1734–1773) and Austrian-Czech origin countess Theresa Kinski Wchintiz von und Tettau (1736-1806).

Maria Teresė drew people's attention with her théâtre de société plays where she played the male roles. The latter ambition is mentioned in the duke of Grand Duchy of Lithuania Adomas Jurgis Čartoriskis' (1770–1861) letter, "In order to please my mother, lady Tiškevičienė staged a play The fifteen year-old lover in Považkai, in which she performed the male role and my younger sister - the role of her beloved."


Weary of pother happening in her homeland and regular doctor visits, Marija Teresė moved to Paris, where she was renting an apartment in the street of St. Thomas du Louvre. According to sources, countess entered a new life phase in Paris, which was full of intellectual acquaintances. We can add here, that Marija Teresė had accumulated a collection of various self-portraits revealing her diverse approach to culture, for example, orientalism, chamber and official culture as well as her love for horses.

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