Exhibition | Muse or Maestra? Women in Italian Art, 1400–1800

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 24, 2023

Rosalba Carriera, Self-Portrait of the Artist, detail, 1707–08
(Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Jörg P. Anders)

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From the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin:

Muse or Maestra? Women in the Italian Art World, 1400–1800
Muse oder Macherin? Frauen in der italienischen Kunstwelt 1400 – 1800
Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, 8 March — 4 June 2023

Curated by Dagmar Korbacher

Featuring some 90 works, this special exhibition organised by Berlin’s Kupferstichkabinett elucidates the lives and impact of women such as Rosalba Carriera, Artemisia Gentileschi, Elisabetta Sirani, Diana Scultori, Isabella d’Este, Christina, Queen of Sweden, and others. Their works, fates and enormous influence on the art world of their times have in part been forgotten today.

During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the art of these women outshone that of their fathers, brothers, and husbands. They created and collected oeuvres that were sought after throughout Europe. They knew how to market themselves and how to network. The protagonists in the exhibition comprise not only women artists who created works in demand, but also wives who supported their husbands and posed for them as models and female patrons who gave commissions for artworks and supported women artists, as well as preservationists and collectors who kept and passed on the works.

Not only does the exhibition show the art of these women, it also provides details about the circumstances of their lives to the extent that this information is known. A number of issues are addressed. These include determining what influence being a woman had on these women’s roles in the art world, whether or not they married and became mothers, and which strategies they pursued to assert themselves in a man’s world, thus making it possible for us to still find traces of their respective impacts.

Women’s diverse, active roles in Italian art are presented with drawings and prints until 1800 from the Kupferstichkabinett’s vast collection, as well as some outstanding loans. In various interventions in the exhibition and catalogue, the youth advisory panel of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Achtet AlisMB, contributes the younger generation’s perspective on this topic.

Muse or Maestra?: Women in the Italian Art World, 1400–1800 is curated by Dagmar Korbacher, director of the Kupferstichkabinett. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.


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