Exhibition | By Her ­Hand, Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on August 2, 2021

From the press release (30 July 2021) for the exhibition:

By Her ­Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, 30 September 2021 — 9 January 2022
Detroit Institute of Arts, 6 February — 29 May 2022

Curated by Eve Straussman-Pflanzer and Oliver Tostmann

The first exhibition solely dedicated to Italian women artists at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, By Her ­Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800 explores how women succeeded in the male-dominated art world of the time. From the group of eighteen artists presented, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1654 or later), takes center stage with outstanding portraits and images of heroines. This exhibition recognizes and celebrates the vital contributions of women to the history of art in Italy through rarely seen works, recent scholarship, and introductions to virtually unknown artists.

“Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Rosalba Carriera, among others, created pathbreaking works of art, simultaneously subverting expectations and challenging norms,” said Oliver Tostmann, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art at the Wadsworth. “Their works and careers are often distinguished by alternative choices and idiosyncratic methods employed within the context of the male dominated art world of the time. By Her Hand brings together a wide spectrum of works by these artists—many on view for the first time—inviting visitors to explore, reassess, and celebrate the achievements of Italian women artists.”

The exhibition features a wide array of paintings, miniatures, and works on paper from institutional and private collections in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The artists take on a range of subjects from portraiture and still life, to historical and religious stories. Many works are being shown publicly for the first time or are making their U.S. debut such as Artemisia Gentileschi’s ravishing Mary Magdalene. By Her Hand reweaves history by examining women artists’ work and careers from the 1550s to the 1750s. Despite the fundamental differences and challenges women artists faced, some achieved notable success in their lifetime. The accomplishments of this diverse and dynamic group are introduced, discussed, and reassessed. Until recently, many of these Italian women artists were overlooked by critics, scholars, collectors, and institutions alike.

Artemisia Gentileschi is arguably the best-known artist included in the exhibition. Gentileschi’s talents were widely recognized by her contemporaries, many elite patrons of her day knew of and desired her work. Important works by Gentileschi highlight her innovative ideas, use of sensuous colors, and command of the brush. The Wadsworth’s Self-Portrait as a Lute Player is compared with the recently discovered Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria from the National Gallery, London, as well as Portrait of Saint Catherine from the Uffizi Galleries, Florence. This will be the first opportunity to see these three celebrated paintings side by side in the United States. Additional examples of Gentileschi’s pioneering depictions of strong women, such as Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes from the Detroit Institute of Arts, will also be on view.

The compelling works of art on view in By Her Hand coupled with stories of their pioneering makers reveals a nuanced picture of the role Italian women artists played from the Renaissance to the Rococo. By Her Hand celebrates their long-overlooked contributions, and aims to inspire continued reexaminations of the role women artists have played throughout the history of art.

“Never before in its long history has the Wadsworth devoted an exhibition to the work of professional women artists in sixteenth through eighteenth-century Italy, despite the fame of our Italian Baroque painting collection” said Jeffrey N. Brown, Interim Director & CEO of the Wadsworth Atheneum. “By Her Hand is the first exhibition in any encyclopedic museum in the United States to focus on this subject. This ground-breaking exhibition provides our audiences with a chance to encounter the outstanding art produced by these women artists in early modern Italy and to appreciate the far-reaching consequences of Artemisia Gentileschi’s illustrious career.”

By Her Hand is a collaboration between the Wadsworth and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Curated by Eve Straussman-Pflanzer former curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts now Curator and Head of Italian and Spanish paintings at The National Gallery of Art, Washington and Oliver Tostmann, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art at the Wadsworth. After its debut at the Wadsworth, it will travel to Detroit where it will be on view February 6–May 29, 2022.

Rosalba Carriera, Allegory of Grammar, ca. 1715, pastel on paper (Private Collection).

Artists in the exhibition

Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1535–1625)
Diana Scultori (c. 1547–1612)
Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614)
Fede Galizia (c. 1574–c. 1630)
Isabella Catanea Parasole (active 1585–1625)
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1654 or later)
Orsola Maddalena Caccia (1596–1676)
Giovanna Garzoni (1600–1670)
Virginia da Vezzo (1600–1638)*
Anna Maria Vaiani (1604–1655)
Elisabetta Sirani (1638–1665)
Ginevra Cantofoli (1618–1672)
Caterina de Julianis (c. 1670–c. 1742)
Rosalba Carriera (1673–1757)
Marianna Carlevarijs (1703–after 1750)
Maria Felice Tibaldi (1707–1770)*
Veronica Stern Telli (1717–1801)
Anna Bacherini Piattoli (1720–1788)

* Virginia da Vezzo and Maria Felice Tibaldi are represented in portraits painted by their husbands Simon Vouet (1590–1649) and Pierre Subleyras (1699–1749).

Eve Straussman-Pflanzer and Oliver Tostmann, with contributions by Sheila Barker, Babette Bohn, C. D. Dickerson, Jamie Gabbarelli, Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Joaneath Spicer, and Lara Roney, By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021), 192 pages, ISBN: 978-0300256369, $40.


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