The Renaissance was a time of great change and creativity in art.
Although women were not always given the same opportunities as men, there were many talented female artists who made their mark during this period.
Male artists were able to study under established masters, while women were not. Additionally, women were not allowed to join the major art academies of the time.
This meant that their work was not seen by as many people and they did not have the same opportunities to sell their work.
In addition, social norms at the time frowned upon woman traveling – and living – by themselves.
At a time when traveling to royal (cardinal) courts were a main stream of income of artists lives – this was a strong hindrance that prohibited many women from pursuing a life in the arts.
As a result, many female artists were forced to rely on their husbands or fathers for financial support.
And those that did not have supporting families to rely on, couldn’t keep creating art.
It’s important to discuss these artists however, because their portraits give us a fuller picture of the life of women, a theme not many painters cared about.
Some of these paintors, like Caterina Van Hemessen, were popular back in their day but were then forgotten.
Other, like Artemisia Gentileschi, had to overcome sexual violence to survive and be taken seriously as artists.
Their work were rediscovered by committed scholars that wanted to bring into the limelight these forgotten works.
Here are just a few of the most famous women renaissance artists.
Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian painter who lived in the 1600s. She is considered to be one of the most important female artists of the Renaissance period.
Artemisia was born into a family of artists, and she learned from her father, Orazio Gentileschi. She was also influenced by the work of Caravaggio.
Artemisia Gentileschi is best known for her paintings that depict strong and powerful women from Greek and Roman mythology.
She often used her own life experiences as inspiration for her art.
For example, she painted “Judith Slaying Holofernes” after she was raped by her mentor (read about Gentileschi’s rape here)
The painting is an exploration of her own experience, with the biblical story serving as a metaphor for her personal struggle.
She also painted “The Annunciation” to depict Mary’s journey from innocence to motherhood, which bears striking resemblance to Artemisia’s own transition from victim to survivor.
Her art often expressed her deep emotion and pain, making it a powerful tool in her journey towards healing.
Artemisia was also an advocate for the rights of women and believed that gender should not be used to limit a woman’s capabilities. She created works that highlighted the strength of female characters, often depicting them in roles traditionally reserved for men.
She was unafraid to challenge societal expectations and used her art to make a statement about the power of women.
Artemisia’s work has been celebrated around the world, with many museums dedicated to her life and artwork.
You can find her art are the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Sofonisba Anguissola was another Italian painter who lived in the 1500s and 1600s.
She came from a noble family, and her father encouraged her to study and practice art.
Sofonisba Anguissola is best known for her portraits, many of which were of her family members.
Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532 – 1625) was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Cremona, Lombardy.
She received a well-rounded education that included the study of Latin, philosophy, rhetoric, and logic.
Her father, Amilcare Anguissola was a nobleman who intended to expand her education by sending her to study with some of the best painters of the time.
However, due to a local plague and financial difficulties, she was only able to study with a local painter by the name of Bernardino Campi.
Despite this, Sofonisba was able to develop her skills and was later sent by her father to study in Rome under the tutelage of Agostino Tassi, who was then court painter to Pope Urban VIII (he also was the turor – and raper of Artemisia Gentileschi).
Sofonisba’s talents were soon recognized by the pope, who summoned her to his court, where she painted a portrait of Pope Urban VIII’s nephew Antonio Barberini.
This portrait so impressed the pope that he immediately commissioned her to paint portraits of his neices, the Princesse Isabella and the Infanta Clara Eugenia.
Sofonisba’s stay at the Spanish court came to an abrupt end when her father recalled her to Cremona due to family obligations.
Sofonisba continued to paint while in Cremona, and she gained a reputation for her portraiture.
In 1559, she married Fabrizio Montegazza and had six children with him. Unfortunately, only three of their children survived to adulthood.
Around 1560, Sofonisba was once again able to travel, this time to Milan, where she painted the Wedding Feast of Santa Margarita for the refectory of the Convent of the Immaculate Conception.
The painting was so well received that Sofonisba was commissioned to paint another altarpiece for the church of San Pietro Martire in Mantua.
In 1570, Sofonisba’s husband died and she returned to Cremona. S
he continued to paint, and she also took on pupils, the most famous of which was Lavinia Fontana, who became a famous painter in her own right (see below).
Sofonisba eventually remarried and moved to Palermo in 1577.
In Palermo, she was commissioned to paint the wedding portraits of Don Fernando de Valenzuela and Infanta Juana of Aragon.
She continued to live and work in Palermo until her death in 1625.
Sofonisba Anguissola was one of the most successful women artists of the Renaissance. She was able to overcome the obstacles placed in her way by her gender and social status to become a highly sought-after artist.
Her career spanned over six decades, and her work can be found in some of the most prestigious museums in the world, including the Louvre, the Uffizi, and the Prado.
Lavinia Fontana was an Italian painter who lived in the 1500s and 1600s.
She was the first woman to become a professional artist in Bologna, Italy.
Lavinia Fontana is best known for her portraits, which were very popular during her lifetime.
Many of her subjects were members of the nobility or the clergy.
She was born in 1552 in Bologna, Italy, into a family of artists.
Her father was the painter Prospero Fontana and her mother was the sister of the painter Agostino Carracci.
Lavinia was the first woman to be admitted to the prestigious Accademia di San Luca, where she trained with some of the most renowned artists of her day.
Lavinia Fontana achieved great success in her lifetime. She was commissioned by popes and princes, and her work was displayed in some of the most prestigious galleries in Europe.
Her paintings are known for their beautiful and elegant style, and her subjects ranged from religious scenes to portraits and mythological figures.
Despite her success, Lavinia Fontana was largely forgotten until the 20th century.
In recent years, however, she has been rediscovered by scholars and critics, and her work is now highly regarded once again.
Caterina van Hemessen
Caterina van Hemessen was a Flemish painter who lived in the 1500s.
She is one of the earliest known female artists to paint self-portraits.
Caterina van Hemessen is best known for her paintings of everyday life, which were very popular in her time.
Caterina van Hemessen was a Flemish painter born in 1528.
She is one of the first known female painters from the Low Countries and the first woman to have a self-portrait included in a collection of royal portraits.
Caterina became famous in her own day and was later rediscovered by modern scholars.
Her work offers a rare glimpse into the lives of women in the sixteenth century.
Caterina van Hemessen was born in Brussels in 1528, the daughter of a successful artist.
She was educated at home and received a humanist education. She studied Latin, Spanish, and French and also learned to paint and draw.
Caterina’s father died when she was only sixteen, and she began working in his workshop to support herself.
In 1548, Caterina married Jan van Scorel, a successful artist from Amsterdam.
The couple moved to Antwerp, where they enjoyed a prosperous life. They had four children together, but only one survived to adulthood.
Caterina’s work was popular in her own day, and she was commissioned to paint portraits of nobility and royalty.
Her work was included in the 1559 Brussels Exhibition, one of the first public art exhibitions in Europe.
Her self-portrait from that year is the earliest known painting by a Netherlandish woman artist.
Judith Leyster was a Dutch painter who lived in the 1600s.
She was one of the most successful female artists of her time.
Judith Leyster is best known for her genre paintings, which depict scenes from everyday life. She often used striking colors and bold compositions in her work.
Judith Leyster (1609-1660) was a Dutch painter of the Golden Age. She specialized in genre scenes, often featuring musicians, and was one of the few women artists of her time to achieve renown. Her works are known for their lively style and sense of humor.
Leyster was born in Haarlem, Netherlands, in 1609.
Her father was a brewer, and she was one of nine children.
Leyster’s mother died when she was young, and her father remarried soon afterwards.
Leyster’s stepmother did not approve of her pursuing an artistic career, so she was largely self-taught.
Leyster began her career as an artist in the early 1630s.
She soon joined the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke, a professional organization for artists.
In 1633, she married fellow artist Jan Miense Molenaer.
The couple had six children together, but only two survived to adulthood.
Leyster’s husband died in 1658, and she died two years later, in 1660.
Leyster is best known for her genre scenes, which often featured musicians. These works are characterized by their lively style and sense of humor.
Leyster’s other works include portraits, landscapes, and still-lifes.
Today, Leyster’s works can be found in many prestigious museums, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Where did most female renaissance artists learn their trade?
Most female Renaissance artists learned their trade through apprenticeships with established masters or by attending workshops run by family members.
These workshops allowed women to gain experience in painting, sculpting, and other forms of art.
They also provided a safe space for them to explore their own creative ideas without fear of criticism or ridicule from male colleagues.
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