Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Emily Wilbourne

Committee Members

Janette Tilley

Rebecca Cypess

Tina Frühauf

Subject Categories



Women composers, Judaism, Converso, viola da gamba, embodiment, performance, historical performance, Baroque music, gender, race


Leonora Duarte (1610–1678), a converso of Jewish descent living in Antwerp, is the author of seven five-part Sinfonias for viol consort — the only known seventeenth-century viol music written by a woman. This music is testament to a formidable talent for composition, yet very little is known about the life and times in which Duarte produced her work. Her family were merchants and art collectors of Jewish descent who immigrated from Portugal in the early sixteenth century to escape the Inquisition; in exile in Antwerp, they achieved enormous success and provided the means with which to educate their children and integrate them into certain aspects of their business world. Duarte’s musical education reveals knowledge of many instruments as well as lessons in composition and it is manifested in the prominence her music played in her internationally-known family.

Examining Duarte’s life presents a remarkable opportunity to consider performance within the early modern domestic sphere — this is a project that intersects with embodiment and display, as well as issues of gender and race. This dissertation considers Duarte and her music as products of diverse influences within the landscape of post-Inquisition Antwerp, as evidence of complex and symbiotic relationships with contemporaries, and as vital testimony to the cultural accomplishments of women conversos in early modern Europe, about which almost nothing is known. It draws upon musical analysis, critical theory, art history, Jewish studies, and my own performances and recording of her music. What emerges is a narrative in which the experience of domestic musical performance allowed Duarte to navigate the waters of social diplomacy within the broader context of cultural exchange in Antwerp.

Included in

Musicology Commons