Often trained by their fathers or outpoured their creativity after traumatic experiences, here are four of the most talented female artists of the Renaissance period.
Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael may be some of the best-known artists that even the ninja turtles are named after. But, there are many female-identified artists that history has seemed to have forgotten.
An Italian painter often tied to the Baroque cannon, Artemisia Gentileschi is one of the most well-known painters of the 17th century. You can find her work in a number of galleries mostly around Europe and across the globe. One of her most famous paintings is Judith Slaying Holofernes, a masterpiece based off of a biblical story. This scene was created by numerous iconic artists, including: Carvaggio, but many argue that Gentileschi’s is a much more vivid version. Gentileschi used her art to depict the grieving process after being raped at the age of seventeen. Many of her works depict strong female subjects.
Also an Italian painter in the Baroque cannon, Lavania Fontana is known for her incredible portraiture. Unlike other female identified artists during her time, Fontana was encouraged to create art by her father, Prospero Fontana, an artist himself. She worked with many great painters, such as: Giorgio Vasari. She became one of the first female artists to gain fame throughout Italy, painting images that were often thought to be a “man’s job.” For example, her Nude Minerva was a pivotal point for non-male artists at the time since women during the Baroque period were shunned from depicting what was perceived as promiscuous.
Caterina van Hemessen
Caterina van Hemessen was a Flemish Renaissance painter known for her portraitures, specifically of female subjects. Like Fontana, she was formally trained by her father, Jan Sanders van Hemessen. Many women desired to become artists during this time required an apprenticeship, but they were often denied by the sole fact of their gender. Thus, most female artists were trained by their fathers or another close relative in the industry. Her self-portrait is one of her most famous works and is estimated to be one of the first self-portraits to also include a canvas in it.
The first known female Renaissance painter of Florence, Plautilla Nelli was a self-taught artist. As a nun, she worked out of a convent, something many female artists did. Joining the convent, for many women, allowed them to focus on their craft without scrutinization from society. Nelli inspired the founding of Advancing Women Artists, an organization that works towards the restoration and rediscovery of female-identified works. One of her works, which was unveiled after being restored in 2019, is an image of the Last Supper that hangs in the Santa Maria Novella museum in Florence. This project was the first known painting of this scale created by a woman.