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Italian Women Artists of the 16th and 17th centuries



Italian Women Artists of the 16th and 17th centuries

The great Italian artists of the 16th and 17th centuries need no introduction: Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto and Caravaggio. Yet inevitably when we compile these lists, we’re thinking about the work of men. When we turn to the work of women artists in the Italian High Renaissance and Baroque, we begin to face numerous and often difficult questions. Were there any, and how much of their painting survives? What kind of work might they have executed, and under what conditions? Why do we hear so little about them?

anguissolaThis new course explores Italian women artists, beginning with the 16th-century artists of Florence and Bologna, so greatly influenced by the masters Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo who had proceeded them, producing their surviving works in the context of family traditions or cloistered convents. We then trace the development of genre painting, moving from the still life and portraiture modes so suited to female production, to the boom of women’s painting on the international art market thanks to the demand of Grand Tour souvenirs.

During this course, we trace the lives of these women through archival documents and contemporary descriptions of their work, both their surviving masterpieces and those paintings left to languish, forgotten, in museum storage facilities. We gain an insight into the daily lives of Italian women in the 16th and 17th centuries, from the difficulties of balancing family life and the demands of a career, through to the potential for an education and even legal struggles due to marital problems or assault. And we examine the current international interest in celebrating their careers, from recent documentaries to the work of Jane Fortune's Advancing Women Artists Foundation in Florence.

Session 1 (23 July)
a) The contexts of women’s lives in 16th-century Italy: the family, education and the professional sphere
b) Single women producing art: Suor Plautilla Nelli and art production in a nun’s world
Session 2 (30 July)
a) The emergence of a professional woman artist: Lavinia Fontana and 16th-century Bolognasirani
b) Training the next generation: Elisabetta Sirani and the Bolognese Baroque
Session 3 (6 August)
a) Daughter of a “great man” part 1: Artemisia Gentileschi, her father’s superior?
b) Daughter of a “great man” part 2: The elusive Marietta Robusti, daughter of Tintoretto
Session 4 (13 August)
a) The fortunes of the court artist: Sofonisba Anguissola between Sicily, Spain and Genoa
b) Giovanna Garzoni, courtly tastes and the rise of genre painting
Session 5 (20 August)
a) Rosalba Carriera and the Grand Tourer's Venice
b) Neo-classicism, Angelica Kauffman and the advance of “modernity”


kathleen oliveTutor: Dr Kathleen Olive

Dr Kathleen Olive is a literary and cultural historian, with a PhD in Florentine Renaissance studies from the University of Sydney. She has taught Italian language, literature and history at the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, and leads popular Italian art courses at the WEA. Kathleen, travels frequently to Italy, both to pursue her research and to lead cultural tours for Academy Travel.

Course fee: $175 (no discounts apply)

Downolad the brochure HERE.

To book for the course download HERE the enrolment form, fill it in and send it to: 

For further information call: (02) 9261 1780


Date: Da Tuesday, July 23, 2019 a Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Time: From 10:30 am To 12:30 pm

Organized by : Istituto Italiano di Cultura

Entrance : With fee


Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Sydney