Women of the Venetian Renaissance

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We're doing a week of women on "Feel Art Again." Today's post brings you the four most prominent female artists of the Venetian Renaissance: Sofonisba Anguissola, Diana Mantuana, Marietta Robusti, and Lavinia Fontana.

Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625) began training under Bernardino Campi when she was only 14; she later trained under Bernardino Gatti. Anguissola's apprenticeships were unusual, as most women of the time only trained under their family members. Her apprenticeships made it more acceptable for other women to be students of art. When she was 22, she was introduced to Michelangelo, and began an informal training with the master that lasted at least 2 years. He would give her advice on drawings she made based on sketches from his notebook that he gave her. Anguissola was a court painter and art tutor to the queen in the Spanish Court of Philip III. King Philip III was so supportive of Anguissola that he even arranged her marriage at age 38 to Don Francisco de Moncada and provided her dowry.
Shown at left is Anguissola's "The Chess Game" (1555)

ScultoriDiana Mantuana (1535-1612) trained as an engraver—an uncommon profession for women of the time—under her father, an engraver for the Mantuan court. She received a Papal Privilege to sell her engravings under her two variations of her name, making her the first woman to sell work under her own name (or at least in Rome). Mantuana was a skilled businesswoman who actively promoted herself and her husband, an architect, through her lengthy dedications. Since her death, Mantuana has been known by several names—Diana Mantuana and Diana Mantovana are the names she herself used, the surname Ghisi was ascribed to her because of a mistaken relationship to another engraver, and the surname Scultori was assumed for her by art historians.
Shown at left is Mantuana's "Latona Giving Birth to Apollo and Diana on the Island of Delos"

RobustiMarietta Robusti (c.1555-1590) was the daughter of the famous painter Jacopo Robusti, from whom she inherited the nickname la Tintoretta. Robusti had an especially close relationship with her father. She served an apprenticeship in his studio and even dressed like a boy so she could go everywhere with him. Court painter offers from both Emperor Maximilian and King Philip II were turned down by her father because he couldn't bear to part with his dear daughter. Although Robusti was a well-known portraitist with a "considerable reputation" in her day, painting everybody who was anybody in Venice, only one painting can be conclusively attributed to her today—her "Self Portrait" (1580) at left.

FontanaLavinia Fontana (1552-1614) was also the daughter of a prominent painter, Prospero Fontana. She married Paolo Zappi, who became her painting assistant and a househusband while Fontana supported the family on her artwork. They had 11 children—yes, eleven—but only 3 outlived their mother. In 1603, Fontana was invited to Rome (with her family in tow) by Pope Clement VIII. There, she gained the patronage of the Buoncampagni and even painted Pope Paul V. Fontana is attributed with the largest oeuvre for a pre-1700 female artist with 100 documented works; 32 signed and dated works are known today, with 25 more also attributed to her.
Shown at left is Fontana's "Newborn Baby in a Crib" (1583)

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October 1, 2009 - 7:02pm
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