Women Artists 1 - Following Fathers and Painting as Sisters
There have always been women artists. Pliny the Elder mentioned five in his Natural History: his death in 79 CE, with the famed eruption of Vesuvius, marks the starting point for our exploration. Boccaccio included some of Pliny’s examples when he wrote On Famous Women in the 1360s. So there were role models: why were there not more creative women inspired by their example? Both writers were so influential for the Renaissance, after all. Or if there were, where have they gone? Several of the artists mentioned by Pliny were the daughters of artists – and for women this continued to be one of the most common routes to becoming a painter – but by the time Boccaccio was writing, most women who painted were nuns. In the seclusion of the convent who else was there to illuminate the manuscripts? As well as thinking about the artists mentioned by Pliny and Boccaccio, we will look at the images of them which survive from later times. Although these were made by artists who would have known as little about them as we, they are informative concerning the attitudes towards women artists during medieval and renaissance times. We will also look at the works of at least three nuns, Maria Ormani, Santa Caterina de’ Vigri (the only artist I know to have been recognised as a saint) and Plautilla Nelli.