Do you have a favorite place setting in "The Dinner Party"?
At the moment, I would have to say Trotula. At the time "The Dinner Party" was produced, Trotula was thought to be the name of a physician in Medieval southern Italy and I think the symbolism in that setting does a good job representing that. More recently, in the 1990s Medieval scholars deduced that Trotula was not actually a person and is, instead, just a collection of texts on medicine for women written in Salerno in the 12th century.
That's fascinating. Revised herstory.
Who is this dedicated to?
That is the place setting for Trotula, believed to be an 11th century Italian doctor. Writings attributed to her advocated for women to be able to use pain relieving medicines during childbirth and also revolutionized the medical field by suggesting that men could also be infertile.
It was determined in the 1990s that the name Trotula actually only refers to a collection of medical writings from 11th century southern Italy. The documents are, however, based on the knowledge of real female physicians living in and around Salerno at the time.
Wow thank you, great service.
What's your favorite little known fact about the installation?
That's easy! Trotula is not a real person! From the 15th century until the 1990s, people believed that Trotula was the name of a woman who worked as a physician in Salerno, Italy in the 11th century, which is why she is given a place at The Dinner Party.
But when I was doing some research, I found that scholars of Medieval texts, in the 90s, determined that "Trotula" was just the name of a collection of medical texts pertaining to women in 11th century in Salerno.
Ohhh interesting. Did you or others petition to have the plate removed from the table?
No, The Dinner Party is a pretty fixed installation. Besides, there were may women practicing medicine in Salerno in the 11th century and these "medicas" were cited as a source for much of the information in the Trotula text. The place stands as a symbol for them.
As it stands, The Dinner Party represents a very specific time and place. It's like an artifact in that way that we can still study and learn from.
Thanks for the info!
What do the birds symbolize?
That is an ancient symbol for the medical profession. The main image in the runner is a Tree of Life. Chicago compares the Tree of Life to the act of bringing human life into the world through childbirth.