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In this essay, I hope to analyze the issue of women’s economic status from a different perspective. I will use a variety of sources – guild records, population surveys, and literary evidence – to explore the lives of working women in Renaissance Florence and their relation to paid employment. By looking at this one aspect of the lives of working women in one city, I hope to illuminate broader questions of women’s economic power, although obviously the plight of working class women ought not to be equated with that of women of other classes, and the direction of change in one city does not preclude different developments in other areas of Europe. Furthermore, access to paid employment is not only, or even the most important, determinant of economic power. As scholars continue to work on this subject they will undoubtedly considered class, property rights, marriage relationships, and many other social and economic factors before they can arrive at any broad interpretations of the economic and social status of Renaissance women.
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Abstract: Prior to the Renaissance the anatomist was restricted to the cadavers of condemned criminals and the goal of dissection was essentially to learn ways to prolong suffering during execution. Over time the autopsy was utilized in public health to determine the cause of death and later developed a role in forensics by the 1300’s. The earliest dissections took place in the homes of the wealthy and became quite common by the 1400’s. However, dissections were still only performed on criminals of low birth and were regarded as a great humility. By the 15th century, some anatomists were employed directly as the executioner; some prisoners were said to prefer the opium of the physician to a public hanging. At the same time, interest developed in anatomy as an area of research and the artists of the period were also dissecting cadavers. Demand for cadavers grew to the point that individuals acquired them by any means possible. With the revival of antiquity, the artists tried to portray man as beautiful and in doing so wanted to understand the human form completely. The patron families, such as the Medici’s, helped to bring the two groups together. Perhaps the key difference between the two was their goal in dissection; the artist to accurately produce beauty and the anatomist to gain scientific knowledge. In the end, the artist’s goal for perfection took the art of anatomy to a higher level and in the end produced some of the most magnificent productions.