Book Series The Medici Archive Project, vol. 2

Women Artists in Early Modern Italy

Careers, Fame, and Collectors

Sheila Barker (ed)

  • Pages: 181 p.
  • Size:220 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:22 b/w, 51 col.
  • Language(s):English, Italian
  • Publication Year:2016

  • ISBN: 978-1-909400-35-1
  • Hardback
  • Available

Enhancing our understanding of early Italian female painters including Sofonisba Anguissola and introducing new ones such as Costanza Francini and Lucrezia Quistelli, this volume studies women artists, their patrons, and their collectors, in order to trace the rise of the social phenomenon of the woman artist.


“Both volumes contain an abundance of historical riches. They exemplify the potential of what can be learned from the Medici Archive Project and its mining and categorization of the voluminous grand ducal archive. I look forward to future volumes in this series adding to that knowledge.” (Natalie Tomas, in Parergon, 34/2, 2017, p. 181)

 “Such an abundance of interest is the best possible problem to have, and this well-illustrated volume makes a welcome and significant contribution to the field.” (Jesse Locker, in Renaissance Quarterly, LXXI/1, 2018, p. 250)




Sheila Barker (Ph.D., Columbia University, 2002), directs the Jane Fortune Research Program on Women Artists at the Medici Archive Project, the first archival program of its kind. Her publications of documentation on women artists have shed light on Lucrezia Quistelli, Artemisia Gentileschi, Irene Parenti Duclos, and the phenomenon of female copyists.


In ten chapters spanning two centuries, this collection of essays examines the relationships between women artists and their publics, both in early modern Italy as well as across Europe. Drawing upon archival evidence, these essays afford abundant documentary evidence about the diverse strategies that women utilized in order to carry out artistic careers, from Sofonisba Anguissola's role as a lady-in-waiting at the court of Philip II of Spain, to Lucrezia Quistelli's avoidance of the Florentine market in favor of upholding the prestige of her family, to Costanza Francini's preference for the steady but humble work of candle painting for a Florentine confraternity. Their unusual life stories along with their outstanding talents brought fame to a number of women artists even in their own lifetimes – so much fame, in fact, that Giorgio Vasari included several women artists in his 1568 edition of artists' biographies. Notably, this visibility also subjected women artists to moral scrutiny, with consequences for their patronage opportunities. Because of their fame and their extraordinary (and often exemplary) lives, works made by women artists held a special allure for early generations of Italian collectors, including Grand Duke Cosimo III de' Medici, who made a point of collecting women’s self-portraits. In the eighteenth century, British collectors wishing to model themselves after the Italian virtuosi exhibited an undeniable penchant for the Italian women artists of a bygone era, even though they largely ignored the contemporary women artists in their midst.


1.Editor's Preface.
Sheila Barker (The Medici Archive Project)

2.'Piu che famose': Some Thoughts on Women Artists in Early Modern Europe.
Sheila Ffolliott (George Mason University, emerita)

3.Sofonisba Anguissola at the Court of Philip II.
Cecilia Gamberini (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid Felsina Cattòlica)

4.Sofonisba Anguissola, 'Pittora de Natura': A Page from Van Dyck’s Italian Sketchbook. Barbara Tramelli (Max Planck Institute, Berlin)

5.Lucrezia Quistelli (1541-1594). A Noblewoman and Artist in Vasari's Florence.
Sheila Barker (The Medici Archive Project)

6.Arcangela Paladini and the Medici.
Lisa Goldenberg Stoppato (Independent Scholar)

7.Costanza Francini. A Painter in the Shadow of Artemisia Gentileschi.
Julia Vicioso (Archivio Storico dell'Arciconfraternita dei Fiorentini)

8.A Newly Discovered Late Work by Artemisia Gentileschi: Susanna and the Elders of 1652.
Adelina Modesti (La Trobe University)

9.The Medici’s First Woman Court Artist: The Life and Career of Camilla Guerrieri Nati.
Eve Straussman-Pflanzer (The Davis Museum, Wellesley College)

10.Female Painters and Cosimo III de’ Medici’s Art Collecting Project.
Roberta Piccinelli (Univerity of Teramo)

11.The English Collectors of Italy’s Female Old Masters, 1700-1824.
Nicole Escobedo (Independent Scholar)