L'Accouchement [Delivery], plate 3 from Le Mariage à la ville [The Marriage in the City]
26.4 cm x 33.9 cm (10 3/8 in. x 13 3/8 in.)
(Tours, France, 1602 - 1676, Paris)
Medium and Support:
Etching and engraving
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Leo Steinberg Collection, 2002
The remaining plates in the series shed light on the customs surrounding the experience of childbirth. Some scholars propose that these rituals excluding men were forms of resistance to patriarchal authority. Expectant mothers sent formal invitations to their friends to attend the delivery of their child, just as they had for the wedding itself.
Upon the onset of labor, the husband gathered the invitees together and then withdrew from the scene. A "lying-in" period of about three weeks followed the delivery during which there was a formal "upsitting" ritual marked by a feast attended only by women. The lying-in period ended when the mother and child attended church in the company of her entourage.
All sexual activity was prohibited during this period when she was sequestered in her room, visited only by servants, wet-nurses, and select female friends. Men viewed these occasions with suspicion and feared the potential for the "treason of women."