The Virtuosa
Please remember to submit Quiz 1 on Canvas
by 11:59 PM tonight!
Essay 1 due on Canvas on Monday, October 5
What do the virtuosa painters we're looking at today have in common?
Elisabetti Sirani, Portia Wounding Her Thigh,
c. 1638 - 1655.











Vitruvian Man

Significant developments in the western world view
become influential by the 1400s:
  • Increased exploration of the world
  • Scientific investigation of nature and the human body
  • Medieval religious zeal becomes more tempered
  • Development of the city-state and nations
  • Growth of capitalism and trade
  • Guilds become more powerful and women's participation in them less common
  • The artist's social standing is eventually
    elevated from skilled laborer to gifted intellectual
Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruvian Man, c. 1487.











15th century intellectuals were aware of the great changes of their age and became the first people to name their own time

Renascita = the rebirth
Inspired by newly discovered ancient ruins, artworks and texts, Renaissance intellectuals declared the Classic world the height of western civilization thus far
But, they always made clear that their civilization would be better...
Lavinia Fontana, Self-Portrait, 1579.











Humanism = a cultural and intellectual movement during the Renaissance, following the rediscovery of the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. A philosophy or attitude concerned with the interests, achievements and capabilities of human beings rather than with the abstract concepts and problems of theology.

Roettgen Pieta


Roettgen Pietà, Early 14th century.
Michelangelo, Pietà, c. 1500.











Why are women largely absent from Florentine Renaissance history?

  • Humanist emphasis on academic study for artists
  • Use of linear perspective required knowledge of mathematics
  • Emphasis on anatomical study and accuracy
  • Most Renaissance artists came from artisan backgrounds and were guild members
  • Artists expected to travel abroad
Sandro Botticelli, La Primavera, c. 1482.










Bologna was unique among Italian cities for:

  • Having a university that admitted women, beginning in the 13th century
    • (Women were allowed to teach, but only from behind a screen)
  • Painter's guild honored a female patron - Saint Catherine
    • Men and women joined artisans guild equally
  • More women artists associated with Bologna than any other Italian city
Map of Europe during the Early Renaissance











Boy Bitten by a Crayfish

Sofonisba Anguissola, Boy Bitten by a Crayfish, 1559.











Bernardino Campi Painting Sofonisba Anguisola

Sofonisba Anguissola, Bernardino Campi Painting Sofonisba Anguissola, Late 1550s.











While Humanism opened doors for some women like Anguissola, it more often than not hindered women's participation in the arts.


  • Because of concerns for their safety (usually involving their virginity), women were usually forbidden an education which was vital to the Renaissance artist
  • Humanists tended to support patriarchal notions that held women innately inferior to men
  • Because of their natural inferiority, by definition women could not lead, achieve or invent
  • Women's education was filtered to the "minor."  For example, it was appropriate for them to learn how to draw and sketch but rarely was a woman considered mentally and physically capable of painting a large canvas
Sofonisba Anguissola, Self-Portrait,
c. 1552.
medallion reads: "The maiden Sofonisba Anguissola, depicted by her own hand, from a mirror, at Cremona."











Inscription on portrait: "O art, if thou were able to depict the conduct of the soul, no lovelier painting would exist on earth."

Giovanna Tournabini

The Artist's Mother

Domenico Ghirlandaio,
Giovanna Tornabuoni nee Albizzi, 1488.
Sofonisba Anguisola, Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Bianca Ponzoni Anguissola, c. 1557.