'Where Are The Women?': Uncovering The Lost Works Of Female Renaissance ArtistsHistorians in the News
tags: Renaissance, art history, womens history
Florence is one of the main stops on any art lover's European itinerary. At the Uffizi Galleries, visitors can have their fill of works by Renaissance masters Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
Of course, none of these artists are women.
In 2009, a new nonprofit foundation in Florence started to investigate why.
"I started going into museum storages and attics and checking what was actually there, what works by women," says Linda Falcone, the director of Advancing Women Artists. "It was something that had never been done before because no one had ever before asked the question, 'Where are the women?' "
In the years since, AWA has shed light on a forgotten part of the art world, identifying some 2,000 works by women artists that had been gathering dust in Italy's public museums and in damp churches. It has also financed the restoration of 70 works spanning the 16th to the 20th centuries.
The organization was founded by Jane Fortune, an American philanthropist who died in 2018. Fortune was an intrepid art detective whom Florentines nicknamed "Indiana Jane" in homage to her native state and her Renaissance treasure hunting skills.
For centuries in Italy — the cradle of Renaissance masters — women with artistic talent were not allowed to enter academies. And the names of the few female artists from centuries past have mostly faded into oblivion.
During the Renaissance, Falcone says, "Women didn't have citizenship. They couldn't produce art as a profession. They couldn't issue invoices. They couldn't study anatomy."
So, she says, "No in-the-nude figures, for example, because it just wasn't considered appropriate. The inability to study in the same forum as male artists is very significant."