Two portraits of women artists separated by about 80 years.
One from Italy and the other from what was once Holland and now called the Netherlands.
Sofonisba Anguissola was born in Italy in 1625 and died at age 100. Her parents, of minor nobility, saw that she, her five sisters and one brother, received well rounded educations which included the arts. Circulating in high society, she eventually became an official court painter to the king. She achieved success early in her life, married an aristocrat and continued providing excellent portraiture for all of here career despite the fact that women were prevented from studying anatomy or drawing from life (although female participants were often among the models).
For Anguissola this meant that her compositions were limited to smaller scale unlike the one pictured on the left by Vasari. In her twilight years, when her vision was failing, she still remained active as a wealthy patron of the arts.
Giorgio Vasari later wrote that "Anguissola has shown greater application and better grace than any other woman of our age in her endeavors at drawing; she has thus succeeded not only in drawing, coloring and painting from nature, and copying excellently from others, but by herself has created rare and very beautiful paintings."
I thought it worth noting that while Italian patrons were still heavily requesting and promoting Catholic-inspired art and well into the late 1800's (as documented by a recent Milwaukee Art Museum Exhibit), the strictly enforced Protestant reforms caused Holland's artists to transition more quickly into secular compositions, particularly in the North and West. This is perfectly illustrated by the two paintings above.
Judith Leyster (1609-1660) was the daughter and one of eight children belong of a brewery owner and cloth-maker. She was a gifted child who achieved recognition for her poetry at age fourteen. Her Father's business bankruptcy caused their family hardship but did not derail her career. She was the first woman to be included in the prestigious St Luke's Guild and taught students art from her own workshop. She married a busy, but less talented, artist and shared studio space within a small home. Her husband did most of the painting while she raised their five children.
Leyster studied under many artists, including Frans Hals in her later years. Many, if not all of her paintings were attributed to Hals as their styles were very similar. The Louvre in Paris acquired one of these paintings in 1893 and it was "found to have Leyster’s distinctive monogram (her initials entwined with a five-pointed star) hidden under a false signature reading 'Frans Hals.'” Why this happened is unclear. Perhaps, unfortunately, he took credit for her work or the signature was added after her death in order to sell them. nmwa
Judith Leyster's painting (above) can be found at the NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS in Washington D.C. An excellent art exhibit titled "Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea", is currently on display. The following video features one of the curators, Msgr. Thomas Verdon, who explains briefly the way Mary was depicted during this time period and beyond.
Notes, Art, Photography CMJENTZ ©2013-2018
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