How many women artists do you know? Well, I actually can name a few in Art History, but not really many. And how many artworks by women are in Florence museums? Less than you think and it’s a shame. So I wanna thank the Advancing Women Artists Foundation (AWAF) and Context Travel for this great opportunity to know more about women artists in Florence!
Who and where were the women artists in Florence?
Let’s start with an useful book I recommend you. It’s “Art by women in Florence: a guide though five hundred years” that will guide you through several itineraries in Florence to know exactly who and were.
One of the most famous Italian women artists was Artemisia Gentileschi, who lived in the 17th century and was the daughter of a famous painter called Orazio Gentileschi. She had a very sad and troubled life, but she was one of the few women working for the Medici Grand Dukes. She was actually very talented and archives reported that she was payed for her works as much as a more famous (nowadays) painter called Caracciolo, and this was really something extraordinary for that time! She lived in Florence for several years and we can still admire few of her works, such as a beautiful “Madonna and Child“, depicting a “real” woman breast-feeding her “real” baby, and a stunning “Judith and Her Maidservant“. Both artworks are inside the Palatine Gallery at Pitti Palace together with another incredible artwork called “David and Bathsheba“. At the moment the painting is on display for the public, but hopefully it will be back soon! This painting has been restored thanks to the efforts and the money of AWAF by a team of women. It was heavily damaged by the process of time but the restoration got it back on track, and you can still admire the beauty of Bathsheba and her servants.
Inside Palatine Gallery you can also admire the works of Giovanna Garzoni, who realized several still lives for the Grand Dukes that used to hang them in their private rooms. Her works are very impressive, because of her technique and subjects: a white background, very detailed fruits and vegetables, as well as insects and small animals. Then look for Lavinia Fontana. She was the daughter of one of Vasari’s co-workers and supported her family with her paintings. One of her works hanged at the Palatine is actually her dowry and it represents a self-portrait. She kinda of saying “Dear in-laws, I’m a good looking and talented woman who will support her family with her paintings”.
Then I recommend you visit the Modern Art Gallery, where there are quite a few women artists. A remarkable one is Elizabeth Chaplin, French-born Tuscan artist who lived in a nice villa in Fiesole in 20th century. She left her entire collection to Pitti Museums, counting about 600 artworks. Most of them are depicting self-portraits and familiar scenes. The style reminds me both the Impressionists and the Pre-Raphaelites and I love her colors.
I was really thrilled about this tour and learned lots of unknown things about Florence, about women and about art of course. The tour was organized by Context Travel, that organizes really professional tours led only by scholars and specialists for small groups. Actually they have several interesting guided walkings, especially if you want to go unconventionally.
I also got in touch with a great foundation (and women) that is really working hard to let people know women artists in Florence, as well as working hard to bring them back into display. I suggest you visit also the new Wiki page about AWAF, because they’re doing an amazing job for all of us!
Ah, I was almost forgetting to tell you something impressive: at the moment in Florence museums there are on display about 150 artworks by women out of 1600 in stock. Just think that the Uffizi Gallery, one of the largest and most important museums in the world, has just ONE artwork on display! I was shocked and really hope thanks to AWAF and other organizations things are going to change soon.