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Italian Women Artists, chapter 3

Our journey into Italian women artists continues. This time with the painters of the past.

Italian art in the Renaissance

While we don’t know many names of Italian women artists, that doesn’t mean women weren’t creating. Often, this lack of information is due to miss-attributions of the works of art. In fact, women received little recognition or compensation, even the most talented ones.

Often, women faced discrimination by other artists, especially mean. Because of this there are women artists shrouded in mystery. Life in Italy gives them credit here, trying to bring their names to the spotlight.

Marietta Robusti Tintoretto

italian women artists
Portrait of a Venetian Lady by Marietta Robusti Tintoretto, a famous Italian female artist

Marietta Robusti Tintoretto (also known as La Tintoretto) was born in 1560 in Venice. Her father was a famous Venetian artist (Jacopo Tintoretto) who ran the Tintoretto studios. To ensure that she received a proper artistic education, Jacopo Tintoretto dressed young Marietta in boys clothing. This way, she could access the workplace. By the time she was a teenager, their works were almost indistinguishable from each other.

By the 1580’s Marietta’s portraits were in high demand. She painted for the courts of Emperor Maximilian, Phillip II of Spain, and Archduke Ferdinand. But she refused. Instead, she stayed at home with her father, although not because she wanted to. In fact, since women had little social freedom in the 1500s, Marietta had little choice but to concede to her father’s demands.

Marietta was subjected to the whims of her father, who refused to let her go. Hence, she could never expand her career as an artist. Jacopo relied so deeply on his daughter. So much so that he did not even permit her to marry until she was nearly thirty years old. She ended up marrying jeweler Jacopo d’Augusta. In 1590. Four years later, Marietta died during child birth.

There are few surviving works by Marietta. One is Portrait of an Old Man With Boy, which until 1920 had been attributed to her father. Another is the Portrait of a woman with a little dog, which until recently had been attributed to El Greco.

Barbara Longhi

italian women artists
Virgin and Child with Saint, by Barbara Longhi, an Italian artist

Barbara Longhi was born in 1552. She was daughter of Luca Longhi. She painted for the monastery of Classe in Ravenna. Her compositions were simple, relying mostly on line and color. Later in her career, she painted mostly saintly images. Her paintings were intimate and simple, designed to instill peace.

Unfortunately, only 15 of her works are known today. Since many of her works were left unsigned, it is impossible to determine the extent of her contributions.

Giovanna Garzoni

italian women painters
Still Life by Giovanna Garzoni

Giovanna Garzoni was born in 1600 in Ascoli Piceno. She primarily painted still lifes and her works were in high demand. Her preferred medium was tempra on vellum. Giovanna’s detailed representations of natural elements made her a favorite illustrator among aristocrats. She enjoyed a long and successful career. In fact, she was also hired to paint botanical and zoological specimens for the Medici Court.

Her watercolors were the finest botanical and zoological renderings of the 17th century.

Properzia De Rossi

italian female painters
This relief of Joseph and Wife by Properzia de Rossi can be found on the portal of the Cathedral of Bologna

Properzia De Rossi was born in Bologna in 1490. She holds a record in the world of Italian women artists. In fact, she was the only female sculpture and miniaturist of the Renaissance. She was well known for her diminutive works and admired for her skills. Properzia carved highly detailed miniatures from the pits of cherries and peaches. Until her early death at the age of 40.

There isn’t much information on the works of Italian women artists. And it’s time to change the trend. Indeed, it’s time to give women their due. To find out more about them, read our previous chapters.

By: Jamie Sue Austin

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