Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Oliva Sabuco

signature image

Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Oliva Sabuco
b. 1562, Alcaraz, Spain; d. after 1629, Spain

Oliva Sabuco, philosopher and author of medical treatises, published a text in 1587 far ahead of its time. Entitled Nueva filosofia de la naturaleza del hombre (A New Philosophy of the Nature of Man), the text challenges medical orthodoxy by arguing for recognition of the symbiotic relationship between physical health and emotional well-being. In the early twentieth century, however, Sabuco's biographer, José Marco e Hidalgo, examined archival documents in which Oliva's father, Miguel, a pharmacist, claimed that Oliva had plagiarized the Nueva filosofia from his own writings. Marco e Hidalgo accepted this claim and reattributed the book to Miguel Sabuco. Subsequent scholars have followed suit, as have most major libraries. But recent feminist scholarship has produced compelling counter-evidence of Oliva's authorship and makes a persuasive argument for restoring her name to the text.

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