Thursday, January 10, 2019

Elizabeth Sirani. January 8, 1636 - August 28, 1665

Portrait of Vincenzo Ferdinando Ranuzzi as Cupid, somehow. It involved a lot of dyed feathers! Painted by Elisabetta Sirani

Being a female artist in Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries was, unsurprisingly, incredibly difficult. In the Cinquecento in Italy, for example, leading male artists were crowned with the term virtuoso (which translates to “mortal god”), while women artists were widely overlooked and given few opportunities to create. But they still did. One such was Elizabeth Sirani. One of the three daughters of a Bolognese artist and teacher, Giovanni Sirani, Elisabetta Sirani had many artworks in her native Bologne to study, both classical and contemporary. She also traveled to Florence and Rome to study the paintings there.

Women messing with men's heads. Judith is finding the head of Holofernes quite distasteful.  But a woman's got to do what a woman's got to do. 

Salome having a special moment with John's head. Maybe having a little chat

During the Renaissance, some other women were taught painting, but few had the opportunities for learning that she did. Encouraged by a mentor, Count Carlo Cesare Malvasia, she assisted her father in his teaching and studied with other instructors there. A few of her works began to sell, and it became clear that her talent was greater than her father's. She painted not only quite well, but also quite quickly.

"You looking at me?" Melpomene, the muse of tragedy

Even so, Elisabetta might have remained no more than her father's assistant, but he developed gout when she was 17, and her earnings were essential to the family. He may also have discouraged her marrying. 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.

At 27, Elisabetta Sirani came down with an unexplained illness. She lost weight and became depressed, though continued to work. She was ill from the spring through the summer and died in August. Bologna gave her a large and elegant public funeral

According to written records, when she died at 27, the Italian artist Elisabetta Sirani had already produced 200 paintings, drawings, and etchings. 

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.

Cupid, pull back your bow.. ooppps.. shot the wrong person

Cleopatra about to prepare her famous pearl-in-vinegar cocktail. Flashing a bit of d├ęcolletage for the occasion, to distract her lover,  Mark Antony.

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