The Renaissance is depicted as the age of Enlightenment, remembered for its imaginative designers, creative artists and writers. The period from 1400 to 1650 is populated with a whole host of famous men who forged our way out of the dark ages, heralding a time of new thought and consciousness. Names like Da Vince, Giotto, Galileo, famous for their inventive minds, Dante who changed the way the written language was perceived. There are many artists and sculptors, Raphael, Caravaggio, Donatello,Botticelli,Titian and Perugino, all synonymous with the age.
What is not as widely acknowledged or considered is the number of women artists that were actively producing work and influencing the perceptions of art at the same time. Despite the struggle for recognition at a time when such unladylike pursuits as painting were considered unhealthy there were some thirty female painters. It is fair to say that although most were traditionally from aristocratic backgrounds or the daughters of established artists their progress still not simple.
Across the whole of Europe, between the 1400 and 1650, there were women present in all the major styles of the time. They worked alongside the great masters, were innovative and developmental in the new techniques and schools. The legacy is a body of work which only serves to enhance the period by its inclusion and stands up in its own right.
Catherine de Vigri 1413 - 1463
She was born Catherine de Vigri in Bologna, 1413 but is better known these days as Saint Catherine de Bologna. The daughter of a local aristocratic family she became a nun and established a monastery for the order of the Poor Clares in the area. A talented painter as a child, she continued her artistic activities producing a variety of religious images, illuminated manuscripts and alter pieces. Once sanctified, she was the obvious choice for the artists patron saint.
Properzia de Rossi 1490 – 1530
Born in Bologna, Properzia trained under Raphael’s master engraver Marcantonio Raimondi. Working as an engraver but even more rare for a female as a sculptor she initially produced miniatures carvings from fruit pits, ultimately going on to create soft, sensitive marble sculptures.
Lavina Teerlinc 1510 – 1576
A Flemish artist from the north European tradition, she specialised in miniature portrait paintings. She was especially liked by the English Queen Mary and also painted a studies of Henry VIII children, Lady Jane Grey amongst others.
Caterina van Hemessen 1528 – 1587
Born in Antwerp and the daughter of painter Jan Sanders van Hemessen, Caterina was another artist from the Flemish school. Her father taught her to paint and she was widely acknowledged as one of the leading portraiture artists of the time. It is also known that she was the first artist ever to paint a self-portrait.
Sofonisba Anguissola 1531 – 1626
The daughter of a noble family from Cremona, she came from a large talented family who had five daughters who painted. When she was 22, after four years formal training she travelled to Rome to study, here she met and was mentored by Michelangelo himself. She spent two decades painting in the Spanish court of Philip I and lived a full life, dying at the ripe old age of ninety.
Lucia Anguissola 1536 – 1568
Lucia was Sofonisba’s younger sister and an equally talented painter. Unfortunately she was to died young at the age of 32 but was still by this time recognised as an accomplished and prestigious artist.
Diana Scultori Ghisi 1547 – 1612
Diana was a trained Engraver, who was born in Rome and taught by her father. Her abilities were spotted by the Papal courts for whom she produced manuscripts and it was with their agreement she was allowed; not only to sell her prints but also to sign her artwork.
Lavinia Fontana 1552 – 1614
A remarkable woman who was born in Bologna, the daughter of painter Prospero Fontana and married to the artist Paolo Zappi but also mother to eleven children. Despite all this she was still able to carve out a career for herself and became an official painter to the Papal Court in Rome and is recognised as the first women to be admitted into the Accademia di Roma. Most of her works had a religious of classical mythological theme.
Marietta Robusti 1560 – 1590
She was from Venice and learn her craft as an apprentice to her father, the painter Jacop Robusti. Marietta acquired the nickname “Tintoretto”, the little dyer girl, from her work mixing her fathers paints and a name under which she would produce work later on in life. Her forte was painting portraits and mythical scenes.
Esther Inglis 1571 - 1624
Her family were Huguenots from France who fled persecution in mainland Europe and moved to Scotland. Here she trained to be a calligrapher and was famous for her miniature manuscripts and books.
Fede Galizia 1578 – 1630
Fede Galizia was born in Milan and encouraged by her father, the miniaturist painter Nunzio Galizia. She produced a fine body of work comprising many religious narratives and portraits but it is her lifelike still life pictures of bowls of fruit and flowers for which she is remembered.
Artemisia Gentileschi 1593 – 1656
Born in Rome and studied under her father the artist Orazio Gentileschi. He approached his colleague, fellow painter Tassi and asked him to continue tutoring her. This relationship became a well documented case when he was accused of rapping her and was sentence to a year in prison. Afterward Artemisia married and spent her life travelling around Italy, painting in Florence, Rome, Venice and Naples. She also worked for some years undertaking commissions in the English Court of Charles I until civil war broke out. Artemisia was a friend of Galileo and the first female to be admitted to the Florence Accademia della Arti a Disegno, famous for her strong female characters and dramatic style.
Geertruydt Roghman 1625 - ?
Geertruydt was a Dutch woman who trained as an engraver and etcher. Famous for the work she produced of women doing everyday tasks.
Mary Beale 1632 – 1697
Born in Barrow, Suffolk, Mary is one of the few English women who rose to fame. Both her father, a clergyman and husband were amateur painters and she became known for her delicate portrait work and also for her work as an art teacher.
Elisabetta Sirani 1638 - 1665
Sirani was born in Bologna and was a particularly talented individual, she could paint, was a poet, writer and musician. Her father was Giovanni Andrea Sirani, the painter. Most of Sirani’s works were large scale painting of a religious or historical theme, which she famously produced at a rapid rate. When she died, believed poisoned at the age of 27 she had already painted and sketched over 200 works of art.
Other Artists on this Hub
Twentieth Century Welsh Painter - Gwen John
Sister of Augustus John, Rodin's lover and artist
Female Painter from the Baroque Period - Artsmisia Gentileschi
First female member of Florence's Accademia della Arti a Disegno,
Baroque Painter - Caravaggio
Brilliant, inspired artist, leading light who died tragically young
Rococo Portait Painter - Rosalba Carriera Innovative miniaturist and pastellist
Australian French Impressionist - Rupert Bunny
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 05, 2015:
This was fascinating to know about these Renaissance woman painters back in their day and the story of their lives. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!
dneal68 on February 27, 2012:
Wow! This website really helped me out with my project for school. Thanks
Sara Cooper on February 18, 2012:
Indeed yes, thank you for the excellent information.
Mojo on August 12, 2011:
Thank you for your beautiful information! Awesome.
I am having trouble finding information on Renaissnace women who worked in all areas (not just art) In other words, is there a female Da Vinci? Thanks for your time and great research.
knell63 (author) from Umbria, Italy on April 02, 2011:
Thank you Laurel,its always good when people find what you have written to be of use and interest.
LaurelB from Paducah, Kentucky on March 23, 2011:
Wow, you really know your stuff. Good work in an area I don't hear enough about.
knell63 (author) from Umbria, Italy on March 08, 2011:
Its sad to think Les that there are so many good female artists that are just not considered within their body of work is over looked. I am glad the hub was of use. Thanks Savithri too.
Les Trois Chenes from Videix, Limousin, South West France on March 08, 2011:
I studied Art History and feminism and thought I knew the main female artists, but you've found lots more great women.
Savithri Rajeevan on March 07, 2011:
Thank you for the list and write up about the Renaissance female artists.
My Green Apple on December 04, 2010:
knell63 (author) from Umbria, Italy on November 21, 2010:
Hi Tapestries & Bindctive, thanks for reading, I am glad you found it of use. Its strange to think that these wonderfully creative women have been mislaid for so long, hopefully historians and art commentators are finally waking up to their talents again.
bindictive on November 20, 2010:
This was very informative and one of my favorite subjects: strong female characters accomplishing great things in periods not known for it.
Tapestries on November 14, 2010:
Thank you for this list of women Renaissance artists. Renaissance art is so beautiful and classical and we have all known Raphael, Da Vinci and their famous angels and cherubs, but these women artists created some beautiful work as well.
mhuze from USA on April 17, 2010:
The Renaissance Period is very interesting to me. The ART, music, style of dress, and the English monarchy (during this time) are subjects I could never get tired of hearing about.
Very nice paintings you posted. Thanks for sharing.
G L Strout from Ohio, USA on April 12, 2010:
Wonderful article. I too had not heard of most of these artists. Thank you.
Amez from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2010:
Well Knell63 there is so much to learn about Artists and Writers, I'll never be able to take it all in. Thanks for this Hub on Female artists, I never really saw a lot on them as I studied Painting and Sketching.
knell63 (author) from Umbria, Italy on March 05, 2010:
Thanks all, Ryan, I hope your students find the information to be of interest. Its amazing how many talent people have just drifted into obscurity as their work became unfashionable.
Ryan Clinton from firstname.lastname@example.org on March 04, 2010:
Thank you - I will share this with my students. Great information. We like to feature a new art discovery each day. This will be of great interest.
peacenhim on February 17, 2010:
Wonderful Hub! Enjoyed reading and learning about these female artist and their history!! Thanks!
Tricia Mason from The English Midlands on January 20, 2010:
Great information! Quite an eye-opener.
tipu on December 26, 2009:
knell63 (author) from Umbria, Italy on December 17, 2009:
Hi iGuidez, Thanks for your comments. I am in the process of writing about Catherine too, Figured you can't get away without mentioning the patron saint of artists now can you. Like the videos you get a great idea of the buildings where she lived. Shame they knocked her home down to make a post office though.
iGuidez on December 17, 2009:
your article is well informed so I thought I would just let you know I've also covered St. Catherine on my site. I've covered a bit of her background about where she lived and where her relics currently remain in Bologna. If anyone is interested in a couple of short informative videos this first one deals with the house beside where she lived since her house was demolished to make way for a post office: http://www.iguidez.com/Bologna/casa_caccianemici/
This next one shows the beautiful Corpus Domini Church with her relics: http://www.iguidez.com/Bologna/corpus_domini_churc...
Unfortunately there are no texts of the commentary but still I'm sure you will find it interesting anyway. Any questions just let me know.
By the way, both places are easy to locate and to visit.
knell63 (author) from Umbria, Italy on November 23, 2009:
I suddenly realised that despite a life time of painting and drawing, four years at art college and countless "who is the best at..." arguments I could hardly name any female artists. Hence my fascination in the subject.
Hopefully these articles go someway to redressing the balance but have also increase my knowledge too. I am glad to find others are enjoying them too. Thanks for the support kind Hubbers.
donna bamford from Canada on November 23, 2009:
Greetings Knell. I had no idea there were so many excellent female Renaissnace artists. Thank you for bringing more attention to them. I wondre if this kind of slight exists in other areas of the arts and there are more great composers and writers that we just haven't heard of.
L M A from Perryville MO on October 17, 2009:
beautiful images, well written, and relevant
Amanda Severn from UK on October 03, 2009:
A distant relative of mine, Mary Severn, was an artist in the late 19th century. She's not so well known, although by all accounts she was very competent. There's really only been a level playing field as regards art over the last 80 years or so.
knell63 (author) from Umbria, Italy on October 03, 2009:
lol, Cheers Amanda,you are now my official editor. Of course Mary's dates are correct, she was naturally born two hundred years after she'd died. I admit, poor proof reading on my part but all corrected now.
I wonder how many more were out there but just didn't get the breaks and have been lost along the way. But the ones that have come through are talented, inventive and interesting individuals.
Amanda Severn from UK on October 03, 2009:
Hi Knell, this is a fascinating hub, especially as I'm unfamiliar with most of these ladies. Can I just ask though, whether Mary Beale's dates are correct? Considering how difficult it was for women to be accepted as artists at this time, it's impressive that each and everyone of these female painters made the grade, and are remembered by us so many centuries later.
marcofratelli from Australia on October 01, 2009:
Wow... you are right. We don't often hear about female painters from the Renaissance period. Great hub.
Paradise7 from Upstate New York on September 30, 2009:
Thank you so much for these hubs about women artists. I'm ashamed to say I never heard of most of these wonderful artists until I started reading your hubs. You are doing us all a service.