Women Painters of Renaissance

Women Painters of Renaissance

Despite being those early founders space for women in art, some of the great women artists of Renaissance have often found no or little space in the mainstream narratives and writings on art history. They have remained unsung in the echoes of their extremely famous male counterparts such as likes of Raffaello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo. Today, however, things are changing and progressing for the women in every sphere of the world, and as they march on every day to forge their rightful place in all pursuits and places, it brings a reminder to remember these bold women who did what they had to do. 

Sister Plautilla Nelli

The first female painter of Renaissance in Florence, Sister Plautilla Nelli was a self-taught nun-artist who produced monumental artistic works and also trained other nuns. Working with religious themes, she brought her characters alive with vivid portrayals of emotions. Plautilla Nelli also created the Last Supper, the first such piece in the history of art by women. Nearly 16ft long, it is the largest work of art by an early female artist. Currently under restoration by a non-profit, Florence-based Advancing Women Artists Foundation (AWA) member Rossella Lari,, Nelli’s Last Supper is scheduled to go on view 2019 for the first time after being hidden from the public eye for more than 450 years.

  • Grieving Madonna attributed to Plautilla Nelli

Sofonisba Anguissola

It was Sofonisba Anguissola’s apprenticeship with local painters set a precedent for women to be accepted as students of art. Unable to undertake the complex multi-figure compositions and life drawing, she began experimenting with placing her subject in an air of informality. While only 26, she was respected enough to be invited by the Spanish court, where she took residence for 14 years. She had greatly inspired the legendary Flemish Painter Anthony van Dyck, who supposedly said that their conversation taught him more about the “true principles” of painting than anything else in his life. It was also him who drew her last portrait.

  • Self-portrait at the Easel Painting a Devotional Panel by Sofonisba Anguissola.

Lavinia Fontana

Considered to be the first female artist working who worked within the same sphere as men in those times, Lavinia Fontana was also the first woman to make a nude portrait. Also working in religious and mythological scenes, Fontana is said to have created over 100 works that are documented, but only 32 signed and dated works are known today. There are 25 more that can be attributed to her, making hers the largest oeuvre for any female artist prior to 1700. Among her earliest paintings that remained is Christ with the Symbols of the Passion from 1576, now in the El Paso Museum of Art.

  • Self-portrait at the Clavichord with a Servant by Lavinia Fontana.jpg Self-portrait at the Clavichord with a Servant by Lavinia Fontana.

Fede Galizia

Pioneer of the still life portrait genre, Fede Galizia was an accomplished Italian Renaissance painter. Painting her subjects against dark backgrounds and in great detail with vibrant colors, Fede Galizia made fruits and flowers her muse. Representations of jasmine flowers, peaches, pears, and grapes, peaking into the light from the darkness. Sufficiently accomplished merely by 12, she commanded admirations of other painters and great art critics like Robert Longhi who described her still life paintings as “precise, yet somewhat afflicted”. She was inspired by Lombard Naturalism and by Emilia’s Late Mannerism, as well as by Leonardo and Correggio.

  • Judith with the Head of Holofernes (1596). The figure of Judith is believed to be a self-portrait.

Artemisia Gentileschi

While she was one of the most important champions of Caravaggio’s dramatic realism, Artemisia Gentileschi’s paintings go much deeper than plain inspiration from a master. With a life no less dramatic behind her, she went on to become one of the most accomplished and progressive painters of her generation. The first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence, her works contained a strong sense of the importance of solidarity and unity between women. Her best-known work is Judith Slaying Holofernes which was a well-known medieval and baroque subject in art, which shows the decapitation of Holofernes, a scene of horrific struggle and blood-letting.

  • Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, Artemisia Gentileschi.

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