Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Theodora the Senatrix

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

Theodora the Senatrix
Flourished circa 950, Rome

Theodora was a Roman senatrix (female senator) during a period labeled the Pornocracy, or Rule of the Harlots (circa 904–963), by some Roman Catholic scholars. The period was characterized by scandal and corruption in the papacy, attributed to the undue influence of powerful laywomen such as Theodora. A member of the Theophylacts, one of the three most influential Roman families of the time, Theodora and her daughters formed close alliances with various senators and popes and were likely the true decision makers behind papal elections. Her daughter Marozia was reputedly the lover of Pope Sergius III and the mother of Pope John XI, possibly by Sergius.

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