|artist unknown "Thamar Painting, with Apprentice" ca. 1403|
Bibliothèque nationale de France
This painting of Thamar at work is from Bocaccio's De Cleres et Nobles Femmes, an edition made specially for Philip the Bold in around 1403. It is fascinating and delightful on several counts, particularly:
1) Thamar's clothing and setting have been modernized into that of an early 15th Century French woman. This "updating" is typical practice for medieval artists. Also contemporary to the times is her painting equipment, including the presence of an apprentice busily grinding pigment (looks like lapis lazuli) for his Mistress. If Thamar did indeed scorn the duties of women, this is probably not her son, in typical Greek family workshop tradition, but instead may depict an apprentice contracted in the more typical medieval fashion through a guild. Women artists did belong to some medieval guilds and did indeed take on apprentices and journeymen, just as their male contemporaries did, although very often a female "master" was attached in some way (even just nominally) to a male, either a Husband, Father or Uncle. Still, such an arrangement was not at all uncommon, and the unknown artist making this painting would have "placed" Thamar in the terms of his/her own times.
2) Thamar has been Christianized as well as modernized. Instead of the pagan goddess Diana, or other Greco/Roman deity, we see Thamar painting a Virgin and Child. Ironic, considering Thamar's renunciation of traditional female roles! But very charming.