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Women Artists of the Seventeenth Century: Renaissance and Baroque

17th 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.

Giovanna Garzoni

One of the first women to paint still life studies, her paintings were popular. She worked at the court of the Duke of Alcala, the court of the Duke of Savoy and in Florence where members of the Medici family were patrons. She was official court painter for the Grand Duke Ferdinando II.

Judith Leyster

A Dutch painter who had her own workshop and students, she produced most of her paintings before she married the painter Jan Miense Molenaer. Her work was confused with that of Frans and Dirck Hals until her rediscovery at the end of the 19th century and subsequent interest in her life and work.

Louise Moillon

French Huguenot still life painter, her father was a painter and art dealer and so was her stepfather. Her paintings, often of fruit and only occasionally including figures, have been described as "contemplative."and so was her stepfather. Her paintings, often of fruit and only occasionally including figures, have been described as "contemplative."

Geertruydt Roghman

A Dutch engraver and etcher, her images of women in ordinary life tasks -- spinning, weaving, cleaning -- are from the perspective of women's experience. Also spelled Geertruyd Roghmann.

Josefa de Ayala

(Josefa de Óbidos)
A Portuguese artist, Josefa de Ayala painted a wide variety of themes, from portraits and still life paintings to religion and mythology.

Maria van Oosterwyck

(Maria van Oosterwijck)
A still life painter from the Netherlands, her work came to the attention of European royalty of France, Saxony and England. She was monetarily successful, but was, like other women, excluded from membership in the painters guild.

Mary Beale

An English portrait painter known as a teacher as well as for her portraits of children. Her father was a clergyman and her husband a cloth manufacturer.

Elisabetta Sirani

Italian painter, she was also a musician and poet who focused on religious and historical scenes. She died at 27, possibly poisoned (her father thought so, but a court didn't agree).

Maria Sibylla Merian

Born in Germany of Swiss and Dutch ancestry, her botanical illustrations of flowers and insects are as notable as scientific studies as they are as art. She left her husband to join a religious community of Labadists, later moved to Amsterdam and in 1699, she traveled to Suriname where she wrote and illustrated the book, Metamorphosis.
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