Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

This is the beginning of a page on women painters
It is very much in progress  (started Nov.18, 2021)

This is by Artemisia Gentileschi. I have a main page on her here.
2. Sofonisba Anguissola (directly below)       3. Lavinia Fontana        4. Giovanna Garzoni  
5. Elizabetta Sirani     6. Fede Galizia   7. Elisabeth Le Brun   8. Diana De Rosa   9. Iaia   10. Violante Ferroni

2. Sofonisba Anguissola (1535-1625) -
Self-Portrait, 1556, Lancut Museum, Poland       
   She was born in Cremona to a relatively poor but aristocratic family. She was an apprentice with local painters, setting a precedent for women to be accepted as students of art. As a young woman she traveled to Rome where she met Michelangelo, who recognized her talent, and to Milan, where she painted the Duke of Alba. The Spanish queen, Elizabeth, was a keen amateur painter and in 1559 Anguissola went to Madrid as her tutor. She became an official court painter to king, Philip II, and adapted her style for official portraits for the Spanish court. There, she was one of the first, and most successful, of the few female court painters. Philip helped arrange an aristocratic marriage for Sofonisba. She moved to Sicily, and later Pisa and Genoa, where she continued to practice as a leading portrait painter. Her most distinctive and attractive paintings are her portraits of herself and her family, which she painted before she moved to the Spanish court. In particular, her depictions of children were fresh and closely observed. In 1625, she died at age 93 in Palermo.

Her example, as much as her work, influenced later generations of artists, and her success opened the way for larger numbers of women to pursue careers as artists. Her contemporary Giorgio Vasari wrote that Anguissola "has shown greater application and better grace than any other woman of our age in her art; she has succeeded not only in drawing, coloring and painting from nature, and copying from others, but has created her own rare and beautiful paintings." Anguissola's self-portraits show what she thought of herself as a woman artist. She presents herself as the artist and not just the object to be painted. She rebelled against the idea that women are just objects of men's attention. Her husband's wealth, plus a generous pension from Philip II, allowed her to paint freely and live comfortably in Sicily. By now quite famous, she received many colleagues who came to discuss the arts with her. Young Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck visited her and made sketches and notes. She was 92 and van Dyck noted that although "her eyesight was weakened", Anguissola was still mentally alert. He claimed that their conversation taught him more about the "true principles" of painting than anything else in his life. She became a wealthy patron of the arts after her eye sight weakened. She died at 93 in Palermo and her adoring husband, who described her as small of frame, yet "great among mortals", buried her in Palermo at the Church of San Giorgio dei Genovesi. Seven years later, on the anniversary of what would have been her 100th birthday, her husband placed this inscription on her tomb:

To Sofonisba, my wife, among the illustrious women of the world, outstanding in portraying the images of man, in sorrow for the loss of his great love, in 1632, dedicate this small tribute to this great woman.  — Orazio Lomellino,
3. Lavinia Fontana (1552– 1614)-

Self-Portrait at the Virginal* with a Servant, 1577, 
Rome, Accademy of San Luca

Lavinia Fontana (1552 – 1614) was a Bolognese painter active in Bologne and Rome. She is known for her portraits, but also for mythological and religious paintings. Her father, Propero, was a prominent painter and trained her. She is seen as the first female career artist in Western Europe. She relied on commissions for her income, and her family relied on her career. Her husband was her agent and he raised their 11 children. She was perhaps the first woman artist to paint female nudes, but that is controversial. Bolognese society supported her career and gave her opportunities not generally open to women artists elsewhere in those times. In the 1580s she was known for her portraits of Bolognese noblewomen. The high demand for her portraits is seen from the large sums of money she made during this period.
   Her relations with female clients were often warm. Many women sat for her and were later namesakes or godmothers for her children. She also did large paintings with religious and mythological themes thar sometimes included female nudes. She married Gian Paolo Zappi in 1577. Thet moved into her father's house in Bologne and Lavinia painted professionally, adding Zappi to her signature. She had 11 children, of whom only 3 outlived her. Zappi took care of the household and was her agent and painting assistant. She attended the University of Bologne, and was listed as one of the city's 'Donne addtrinatte' (women with doctorates) in 1580. Fontana and her family moved to Rome in 1603 at the invitation of Pope Clement VIII and was then appointed as a portraitist at the Vatican. She did well in Rome; Pope Paul V himself was among her sitters. She was elected into the Accademia di San Luca of Rome. She died in the city of Rome on August 11, 1614 and was buried at Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
*virginal: a keyboard instrument  like a harpsichord, popular
 in Europe during the late Renaissance and early Baroque.

Lavinia  was a very successful artist who made money from her art, very rare for a woman painter during the Renaissance. The image shown (above) is her masterpiece, a betrothal gift to the Zappi family. She painted while looking at herself in a mirror. More than 100 of her works are documented, but only 32 signed and dated works are actually known today. Other are attributed to her, making hers the largest body of work of any female artist before 1700. Her paintings of nude figures in mythological settings are of interest. She paints Roman gods in various forms of undress. No other women artists of her day did that. It may be that she was the first. She might have used members of her own family or copied her father's paintings. She did not use live professional models, male or female. During her lifetime, it was socially unacceptable for women to be exposed to nudity, much less paint it. The art academy barred women from viewing any nude body, even though it was a crucial part of training (for male artists).

Colleen writes from Ireland with this link to an exhibit about Lavinia Fontana coming to the National Gallery. It takes a few
centuries, but word gets around.

4. Giovanna Garzoni (1600-1670)-
Garzoni started by painting religious, mythological, and allegorical subjects but gained fame for her botanical subjects painted in tempera and watercolor. Her works were precise and balanced. She was very inventive, including Asian porcelain, exotic seashells, and botanical specimens. Details about her training are unknown. She was born in 1600 in Ascoli Piceno in the Marche (also The Marches) on the  Adriatic side of Italy, slightly to the north of the center of Italy. She had at least some painters in her close family and may have studied with them. Her first known commission was in Rome. She decorated a herbarium. In 1620 Garzoni painted a Saint Andrew for the Venetian Church of the Hospital for the Incurable. She studied calligraphy in Venice and then wrote  a book of cursive characters illustrated with birds, flowers and insects called the Libro de'caratteri Cancellereschi Corsivi (handwriting for use in official documents) (now held in the Academic Library of San Luca, Rome). An example of her skill is this antependium, an altar front, meantto be draped over the altar in church. It is embroidered in silk with flowers around a central medallion of God the Father. (held in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence):

She and her brother left Venice in 1630 for Naples where she worked for the Spanish viceroy, the Duke of Alcalá. She stayed for a year and then went to Rome and then to Turin to be the miniaturist for the Turinese court. She stayed five years. She traveled to Paris, Florence, and back to Rome, serving where her services were needed, primarily among the Medici family, the duke of this and the duchess of that. Her unusual services as miniaturist were very much in demand. As well as painting, Garzoni attended the Accademia di San Luca (artists academy) in Rome, where she was concerned with educating, socializing, and professionalizing the painters, architects and sculptors of Rome. Historians have said that Garzoni's pieces were so well liked that she could ask any price for her
work. Her will left her estate to the Church of Santa Martina, the church of the Accademia di San Luca with the proviso that she be buried in the church. Garzoni died in Rome in February 1670 at the age of 70.


Elisabetta Sirani (1638-1665) -
Her given name is spelled both with an /s/ or a /z/ often in the same source.
Self-Portrait as Allegory of Painting (1658)
Pushkin Museum, Moscow

Elisabetta Sirani was born in Bologna in 1638. She was born into an artistic family and was first trained in her father's studio. He was not prolific but was a respected artist in the city. She became one of the most renowned painters in Bologna, and a cult up grew around her. She  overshadowed both her father and two sisters, who were also painters. Elizabetta was praised for her originality in both painting, printmaking and drawing and the fact that she worked very fast. She was very prolific and to those who doubted that one woman could do so much, she said "Come in and watch me work." When her father could no longer work because of gout, she took over his workshop and became the family's primary breadwinner. Between her students' fees and portrait commissions, she supported the family. Her studio was highly successful. Bologna was a progressive city, accepting and celebrating women artists. Elisabetta died suddenly at 27 in August 1665. There were suspicions she was poisoned, but no one was charged. She most likely died from peritonitis after a ruptured peptic ulcer, and that plausibly came from the intense stress of having to provide for her entire household.The city gave her an elaborate funeral, and she was buried in the Basilica of San Domenico, Bologna. A city official wrote that “She is mourned by all, especially those she flattered with her work. It is a great misfortune to lose such a great artist so strangely.” The ceremony reflected the high esteem she enjoyed from the city and, indeed, internationally.

Sirani's great contribution to future women artists was that she set up an art academy in her father's workshop, which she had taken over. She trained a number of men and women artists. This was the first place in Europe, outside of a convent, where women could learn to paint. Elisabetta produced over 200 paintings, 15 etchings, and hundreds of drawings. She kept a careful list of her paintings. She signed many of them probably to keep her work from being confused with her father's and no doubt because she was proud of her own powers of invention —this is mine! Her range was astonishing: historical and Biblical themes (often featuring women), allegories, portraits, alter pieces, small-scale devotional images, and lesser known historical themes. She was so broad in her tastes and so fast in execution that a critic described it as "nonchalance".


Fede Galizia  (c.1578– c.1630)
many critics say this a self-portrait of Galizia
Known only as Galizia (her given name means 'Faith') was a noted painter of still-lifes, portraits, and religious pictures. She is not as well known as other women artists because she did not seek out royal courts or aristocratic social circles, nor did she seek their patronage. She was born in Milan sometime before 1578. Her father was also a painter of miniatures and he taught her to paint. By her late  teens she was well-known throughout Europe. She made most of her income from portraits and was noted for her use of vibrant colors and great attention to details of clothing and jewelry. Although very few early sources mention her still-life paintings, they are the majority of her surviving works. Sixty-three works are catalogued as hers, of which 44 are still-lifes. She also did historical and Biblical scenes and a number of versions of Judith and Holofernes (such as the one shown), a popular theme* in art of the period. She also created miniatures and altarpieces for convents. Galizia never married or had children. They think she died of the plague in Milan in 1630.
*Besides Gentileschi (#1 above) and Galizia (shown, right) there are at least two dozen works by well-known artists from the 1500s to the present that paint this scene, including Donatello, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Goya, and Klimt. In the Old Testament Judith was a rich and beautiful widow in Bethulia (no one knows if that city was a real one. If so, it was plausibly on the Egyptian border with Gaza). It was put to siege by Holofernes, a Babylonian general. To save her people Judith went to Holofernes and said she could get him into the city. She then got  Holofernes so drunk he passed out and she cut off his head and returned to her city and her people. That story makes up the Book of Judith, which is non-canonical in some versions of Judaism and Christianity, meaning they don't view it as Holy Scripture. You can call it "deuterocanonical" (of the second canon) meaning 'believe it if you want. Everybody likes a good story."

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun 
A self-portrait with her little girl               
Madame Le Brun was a prominent French portrait painter of the late 1700s. In October 1789, after the arrest of the royal family during the French Revolution, she fled France with her young daughter, Her husband  claimed she had gone to Italy "to instruct and improve herself", but she certainly feared for her own safety. In her 12-year absence from France, she lived and worked in Italy (1789–1792), Austria, Russia, and Germany. Her time in Naples is the reason I include her on this page.

While in Italy, Vigée Le Brun was elected to the Academy in Parma (1789) and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome (1790). In Naples, she painted portraits of Maria Carolina of Austria (sister of Marie Antoinette) and her eldest four living children: Maria Teresa, Francesco, Luisa, and Maria Cristina. She later recalled that Luisa "was extremely ugly, and made such grimaces that I was most reluctant to finish her portrait." Le Brun also painted allegorical portraits of the notorious Emma Hamilton. Lady Hamilton was similarly the model for Vigée Le Brun's Sibyl, which was inspired by the painted sibyls of Domenichino. The painting represents the Cumaean Sibyl, Le Brun's favorite painting. She mentions it in her memoir more than any other work, and displayed it while in Venice (1792), Vienna (1792), Dresden (1794), and Saint
Petersburg (1795); she also sent it to be shown at the Salon of Paris in 1798. Her artistic style ipart of the emergence of Neoclassicism. Vigée Le Brun made a name for herself as the portrait painter to Marie Antoinette and enjoyed the patronage of European aristocrats and was elected to art academies in ten cities. Vigée Le Brun created some 660 portraits  and 200 landscapes. In addition to many works in private collections, her paintings are owned by major museums, such as the Louvre, the Hermitage Museum, the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and many other collections in continental Europe and the United States.

Diana De Rosa (1602-1643) (also known as Annella de Rosa)
This is NOT a self -portrait of De Rosa. It is a detail of her painting
 of Saint Agatha. It is not clear if the original work still exists.

Diana De Rosa was born in Naples in 1602. Her father was a painter. He died and her mother remarried another painted, so it's fair to say that Diana came from an artistic family in many respects. When Diana displayed artistic promise, she joined the workshop of Massimo Stanzione, well-known artist. In 1626, Diana married Agostino Beltrano who also trained with Stanzione. Under Stanzione's instruction, Diana painted many works. Her biographer, Bernardo de Dominici, says she painted
commissioned works according to Stanzione's preliminary drawings; then ,Stanzione would retouch them before they were delivered to the patron. She was not content painting only for private households and wanted her work to be public to show what
women arists could do. Stanzione got her a commission at the church of the Pietà de’ Turchini where she painted an image of the Birth of the Virgin on the ceiling near the entrance of the church, and the Death of the Virgin on the ceiling towards the high altar. Her biographer says those images were so beautiful that people thought Stanzione had painted them. The paintings in the Pietà de’ Turchini were most likely destroyed in 1638 when the church roof collapsed. For the Royal Church of Monte Oliveto in Naples, Diana painted an image of the Madonna breastfeeding the Infant Christ, while for the sacristy of Santa Maria degli Angeli, she painted an image of Saint John the Baptist with a lamb. Unfortunately, those works no longer exist. Her death is a matter of dispute. Her biographer says her husband murdered her in a jealous rage after a servant girl incorrectly told him that Diana was having an affair with her art teacher, Massimo Stanzione. Others claim the account is over-dramatized and simply say she died of illness in 1643.

aia of Cyzicus
(c. 120 BC)

Iaia should be at the top of this page, but I'll leave her here. She's painting and I don't want to disturb her. We have no idea what she really looked like, although she was said to have displayed a self-portrait in Naples once. The image here is a 15th-century portrait of Iaia from a French translation of De Mulieribus Claris (Latin for "Concerning Famous Women") a collection of biographies of historical and mythological women by Giovanni Boccaccio, composed in 1361–62. It was the first collection devoted to biographies of women in Western literature. Her name is sometimes (incorrectly) rendered as Lala or Lalla. She was born in Cyzicus, an ancient Greek town in Mysia in the current
Balıkesir Province of Turkey. That site was in the Roman Empire; thus, she is called a "Roman" painter (not that she was from the city of Rome). She was alive during the time of Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro (c.120 BC). Iaia likely came to Rome to meet the demand for art there in the late Republic. Most of her paintings are said to be of women. Pliny the Elder attributes to her a large panel painting of an old woman and a self-portrait. They say she worked faster and painted better than her male competitors, which enabled her to earn more than they did. She never married. Iaia is one of the five female artists of antiquity mentioned in Pliny the Elder's Natural History (XL.147–148): the others are Timarete, Irene, Aristarete, and Olympias. Iaia is one of the three women artists that Boccaccio mentions (above).

Violante Ferroni was a baroque painter from Florence. She was born in 1720. She was a very successful woman for her time, creating two large commissions for the San Giovanni di Dio Hospital in Florence. At 16 Ferroni was admitted to the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno [Art Academy for Design]. The academy typically catered to mid-career artists rather than teenagers, therefore Ferroni's admittance was a testimony of her skill. The director of this academy wrote a short biography of her where he states:

"This witty and respectable young lady, after an in-depth and careful study of drawing, is now, in 1740, at the age of about 20, learning to paint portraits and historical scenes using oil paint and pastels. Her talent is most evident when she paints scenes of her own composition with oil paints, a medium in which she is also adept at color mixing. So, Florence has reason to hope that she, in time, will get better and better at painting, especially because she is so enamored of art that she never gets tired of improving her technique."

Beyond the academy, Ferroni had three teachers who were prominent in the art world of the time: Violante Siries Cerroti, Giovanni Domenico Ferretti, and Vincenzo Meucci.

The image (shown) is in the San Giovanni Di Dio Hospital in Florence and bears the title: Saint John of God Heals Plague Victims. It is one of two she painted on commission for the atrium of the San Giovanni Di Dio Hospital in the mid-1700's. They are both 8 by 11.5 feet (2.45 x 3.50 meters) oval paintings. She signed them. They depict two religious scenes of Saint John of God. The one not shown here is titled Saint John Giving Bread to the Poor. Ferroni's monumental paintings were installed at the top of the double staircase that adorned the main entry to the hospital. The paintings use dramatic color and loose brushwork, indicating her boldness as a painter.

Also, see the Advancing Women Artists Foundation
website available in both English and Italian with a single click. The website is extensive and well-done and has detailed biographies of 22 women (with samples of their work) from the period of the Florentine Renaissance into the 20th century. Their page is no longer adding items but has kept their archives open for researchers.

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