• Isabella Saraceni

Renaissance Women: Intro

An archive of notes, observations, sketches, ideas, references and research photos.

Could you name three female artists that worked in the Renaissance or Baroque eras?

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1620

Naming three female artists from any time period is a challenge for those not so art historically inclined...and that is a problem that has been around for ages. In restricting ourselves to just these periods in time, Artemisia Gentileschi is usually the only female artist that comes to mind as more attention has been given recently to her Judith Beheading Holofernes (pictured right). (A somewhat therapeutic image in the aftermath of the Kavanaugh hearings.) Most people --myself included up until about one year ago-- are completely unaware that there were actually many female artists who were active and rather successful during that time period, but there works have been hidden in museum basements or treated as an afterthought to the works of the "great masters" of the time period.

The purpose of this blog is to serve as a record of my navigation through understanding the perspectives and voices of female artists of the Renaissance and Baroque eras of art who's works have been overlooked for centuries. I want to understand the kinds of ideas women were having in such a prolific period in history; when entirely new perspectives of humanity, art and beauty were being developed, and to shed light on the qualities of their works that have for too long been considered invisible or invalid. A very large part of this is also to begin to unpack the complicated and insidious gender-related barriers that have literally kept for the works of these women in museum basements for ages.

A few of the artists I will be talking about in my posts are:

  • Artemisia Gentileschi

  • Sofonisba Anguissola

  • Elisabetta Siriani

  • Lavinia Fontana

  • Properizia de'Rossi

  • Plautilla Nelli

I am aware that the concerns I have, and the research I am doing is not entirely new, these issues have been around for years and have been addressed by many female artists, art historians, art critics, and authors, etc. In light of current movements highlighting female experience in society such as MeToo, Time’s Up, and the Kavanaugh hearings, this project is utterly relevant, and I hope to make some positive contribution individually and collectively with my work on this project all while navigating my own work as a female contemporary artist.

NOTE: Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588) was a Dominican nun and self-taught artist considered to be the first female Renaissance artist in Florence, Italy. She signed the back of her paintings "Orate Pro Pictora" which is Latin for Pray for the Paintress.


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