Friday, October 19, 2007

Elisabetta Sirani (1638-1665)

According to written records when she died at 27, the Italian artist Elisabetta Sirani had already produced 200 paintings, drawings, and etchings. An independent painter by 19, Sirani ran her family's workshop. When her father became incapacitated by gout, she supported her parents, three siblings, and herself entirely through her art.

Sirani spent her life in Bologna, a city famous for its progressive attitude toward women's rights and for producing successful female artists. Trained by her father, Sirani was encouraged in her career by Count Carlo Cesare Malvasia, a family friend and influential art critic. She quickly became known for her ability to paint beautifully finished canvases so quickly that art lovers visited her studio from far and wide to watch her work. Sirani's portraits, mythological subjects, and especially her images of the Holy Family and the Virgin and Child, gained international fame. Her works were acquired by wealthy, noble, and even royal patrons, including the Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici.

When Sirani died-suddenly, after experiencing severe stomach pains-her father suspected that she had been poisoned by a jealous maid. The servant was tried for but acquitted of this crime, and an autopsy revealed numerous lacerations in the artist's stomach, presumably evidence of perforated ulcers.

Sirani's funeral was an elaborate affair involving formal orations, special poetry and music, and an enormous catafalque decorated with a life-size sculpture of the deceased. In addition to her substantial oeuvre, Sirani left an important legacy through her teaching. Her pupils included her two sisters, Barbara and Anna Maria, and more than a dozen other young women who became professional painters.
- Malaspina Biography (Adapted from Women and the Arts - with permission)

Books from Alibris: Baroque Art

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