Whenever we think of a period in art and architecture that seemed both essential and incredibly prevalent, it is impossible to ignore the Renaissance period in Europe. Renaissance art, in particular, is widely famous even among today’s art and architecture enthusiasts. The 15th century witnessed a drastic change in European societies. As a result, this further changed the world of art and architecture.
The word ‘Renaissance’ was derived from the Italian phrase ‘la rinascita’, which means rebirth. Throughout history, it is unsurprising that only men were praised and widely known for their achievements and wisdom. But when we look back, women in the Renaissance were equally talented. They contributed immensely to this glorious era of art and architecture.
Art and Architecture During Renaissance
Renaissance can be described as a period in 14th and 15th century Europe where a new style in paintings, sculptures, and architecture was introduced to the population. The concept of Humanism was a central aspect that thoroughly characterized but simultaneously separated Renaissance from its predecessors. Even though it was raised as an era with innovations in the art world, it was influenced by many features of the medieval ages. One prominent feature was the heritage of artistic techniques used in books and oil paintings.
The era was fascinating, showcased by the exquisite paintings by Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, with details of the natural world providing a spiritual and religious experience. Additionally, there was the introduction of the ‘High Renaissance. This particular time was the epitome of some of the best-known western artists and their art, such as Raphael’s famous Madonnas, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. These art pieces marvelled the spectators with their theme of naturalism. Meanwhile, some women contributed their share in art and architecture and were as talented as these famous men but were never widely recognized.
Women in Renaissance
As dramatic and influential as it sounds like any other period in history, this one was no exception to the oppressive attitude towards the women population. Being a popular time in history, Renaissance is the home to humanity’s most significant artistic revolutions. It is determined and presented with the stories of famous men and their inventions and creations. Even though times have changed and women are getting equal rights and respect in today’s world, having even the slightest experience of recognition was impossible back in the day. And no wonder the women in Renaissance were often overlooked and ignored their rights and power as the men.
Women were given only two rights during this time: marry or become nuns. They were treated with no political rights or even rights to the ordinary activities openly achieved by the male population. Even during these oppressive times, some women fought hard to make a change in society and break the gender norms regulated at that time. If we trace back into history, we can find many forgotten women in the Renaissance who had accomplished things as great as the men of that time.
Female Renaissance Artists
It’s sad but not surprising to notice that women in the Renaissance were considered incapable of producing excellent artistry works. While many of us would be able to identify prominent male artists from that era, remembering the name of a female artist is a topic that should be discussed more. But there were many iconic art pieces in the design field by some famous female artists of the past. These women were limited to the vast matters of the world. As a result, the subject of their works mainly represented a character in literature or any other common themes.
Along with the theme of Humanism, Renaissance art was highly influenced by cultural facts and the actual incidents of that time. Alternatively, these art were restrictions faced by the women of that period and how they were perceived by society. Therefore, this was never an environment for women to come forward and undertake glory and triumph. Women in Renaissance were further denied their rights to achieve education in the field of art and proper training to start their careers. Hence, they needed help to upgrade and improve their artistic skills.
Some Notable Works
Plautilla Nelli (1524-1588)
Plautilla Nelli was one of the first female artists from Florence who contributed to female Renaissance paintings. She was a nun from Italy and was highly influenced by the doctrines of Savonarola. She was a self-taught artist and looked up to the works of other artists, especially Bartolomeo, whom she greatly admired. Nelli’s artworks were significantly distinguishable, with characters showing solid feelings and emotions. Most of her works were religious-based. Her famous paintings include The Last Supper, Lamentation with Saints, and Saint Dominic Receives the Rosary.
Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)
Anguissola is a widely known Italian painter and is considered the first major female artist of the Renaissance. She is among the few female artists to gain international recognition and praise even after her generation. Unlike other female artists of the time, Anguissola was fortunate enough to receive training in fine arts from Bernardino Campi. Her artworks, such as Self-Portrait with Bernardino Campi, highlighted and criticized the way women were objectified at the time. Her other notable works are Self-Portrait at the Easel and Portrait of Bianca Ponzoni Anguissola.
Fede Galizia (1578-1630)
Galizia’s works predominantly concentrated on the theme of still life. She was known as one of the earliest artists specializing in European still life art, focusing mainly on fruits as the theme. Galizia did paintings of portraits and religious images, but her flawless works were still-life images. Her works mainly include fruits and flowers with vibrant colours and detailed displays of shades and shadows. Glass tazza with peaches, jasmine flowers, quinces, and a grasshopper was her notable work, among others.
Clara Peeters (1589-1657)
Clara Peeters was a Belgian artist who was also known for still-life paintings. She often created works that blended the Renaissance and the Baroque movement. Even though her results were primarily focused on still-life images, she can also be regarded as a portrait artist. Self-miniature portraits can be seen as hinted in her still life works, which defines the elegant and detailed artistry of Peeters. Still, Life with Cheese, Almonds, Pretzels, and Still Life of Fish and Cat are some of her famous paintings.
Judith Leyster (1609-1660)
Judith Leyster was a dutch painter who was popular during the Dutch Golden Age era of art. Leyster’s works are excellent and are both in the category of portrait and still life paintings. And because of this, it is a surprise that she was overlooked among other female artists. She was known for her artworks that portrayed energetic and cheerful scenes. Her famous paintings include The Carousing Couple and The Concert.
Even if most notable women in the Renaissance were left to the pages of historical artefacts and overlooked for years, their contribution to art and design could not be ignored. Their works are of marvel and elegance, filled with restrictions faced by their gender. These artworks will continue to be alive in the minds of the people with equal importance and admiration.
- www.grandpalais.fr. (n.d.). What is the Renaissance? [online] Available at: https://www.grandpalais.fr/en/article/what-renaissance.
- Oxford University Press (2019). Renaissance art and architecture | oxford art. [online] Oxfordartonline.com. Available at: https://www.oxfordartonline.com/page/renaissance-art-and-architecture.
- artincontext (2021). Female Renaissance Artists – The Forgotten Women in Renaissance Art. [online] artincontext.org. Available at: https://artincontext.org/female-renaissance-artists/.