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Women Artists of the Sixteenth Century: Renaissance and Baroque

16th Century Female Painters, Sculptors, Engravers


As Renaissance humanism opened up individual opportunities for education, growth, and achievement, a few women transcended gender role expectations.

Some of these women learned to paint in their fathers' workshops and others were noble women whose advantages in life included the ability to learn and practice the arts.

Women artists of the time tended, like their male counterparts, to focus on portraits of individuals, religious themes and still life paintings. A few Flemish and Dutch women became successful, with portraits and still life pictures, but also more family and group scenes than women from Italy portrayed.

Properzia de Rossi

An Italian sculptor and miniaturist (on fruit pits!) who learned art from Marcantonio Raimondi, Raphael's engraver.

Levina Teerlinc

(Levina Teerling)
Her miniature portraits were favorites of the English court in the time of the children of Henry VIII. This Flemish-born artist was more successful in her time than Hans Holbein or Nicholas Hilliard, but no works that can be attributed to her with certainty survive.

Catharina van Hemessen

(Catarina van Hemessen, Catherina van Hemessen)
A painter from Antwerp, taught by her father Jan van Sanders Hemessen. She is known for her religious paintings and her portraits.

Sofonisba Anguissola

Of noble background, she learned painting from Bernardino Campi and was well known in her own time. Her portraits are good examples of Renaissance humanism: the individuality of her subjects comes through. Four of her five sisters were also painters.

Lucia Anguissola

Sister of Sofonisba Anguissola, her surviving work is "Dr. Pietro Maria."

Diana Scultori Ghisi

(Diana Mantuana or Diana Mantovana)
An engraver of Mantura and Rome, unique among women of the time in being permitted to put her name on her plates.

Lavinia Fontana

Her father was the artist Prospero Fontana and it was in his workshop that she learned to paint. She found time to paint even though she became the mother of eleven! Her husband was the painter Zappi, and he also worked with her father. Her work was much in demand, including large-scale public commissions. She was official painter at the papal court for a time. After her father's death she moved to Rome where she was elected to the Roman Academy in recognition of her success. She painted portraits and also depicted religious and mythological themes.

Barbara Longhi

Her father was Luca Longhi. She focused on religious themes, especially paintings depicting the Madonna and Child (12 of her known 15 works).

Marietta Robusti Tintoretto

(La Tintoretta)
A Venetian, apprenticed to her father, the painter Jacobo Rubusti, known as Tintoretto, who was also a musician. She died at 30 in childbirth.

Esther Inglis

(Esther Inglis Kello)
Esther Inglis (originally spelled Langlois) was born to a Huguenot family that had moved to Scotland to escape persecution. She learned calligraphy from her mother and served as an official scribe for her husband. She used her calligraphy skills to produce miniature books, some of which included a self-portrait.
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