This insightful volume is the first authoritative and accessible English-language book to explore the life and legacy of Elisabetta Sirani, one of the most celebrated women artists of seventeenth-century Italy.
Elisabetta Sirani (1638–1665)—painter, printmaker, and teacher—was one of the most innovative and prolific artists of the Bolognese school. The daughter of a painter, she hailed from a city whose university was believed to have had educated women since the Middle Ages and that celebrated the cult of Saint Catherine of Bologna, who was known for her skill as a painter and illuminator—ideal conditions to encourage the training and patronage of skilled women artists.
Drawing on extensive archival documentation and primary sources, including inventories, sale catalogues, and Sirani’s work diary, this book provides an overview of the brief life, fascinating oeuvre, critical fortune, and cultural legacy of this successful Baroque artist. Art historian Adelina Modesti vividly describes the society that both inhibited and supported Sirani, examining her influence on students at Bologna’s school for professional women artists as well as her significance in the professionalization of women’s artistic practice during the seventeenth century.
Gorgeously illustrated throughout, this book focuses on women’s agency. More specifically, it explores Sirani’s identity as both a woman and an artist, including her professional ambition, self-fashioning, and literary construction as Bologna’s preeminent cultural heroine.
Adelina Modesti is an honorary senior fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, Australia.
“Here the extraordinary life of the 17th-century painter Elisabetta Sirani—once considered ‘the best brush in Bologna’—is the focus of Adelina Modesti’s brilliant, fully illustrated biography.” —Jacqueline Riding, The Art Newspaper
“Sumptuously illustrated. . . . Modesti’s brilliant biography is an important step towards establishing Sirani as one of the most significant artists of her generation.” —Breeze Barrington, The Art Newspaper
“This authoritative and indispensable book launches new insights in art history and gender studies. Adelina Modesti’s narrative is not limited to the artist’s life and production, but takes us by the hand and brings the reader into the historic, cultural and social environment of Baroque Bologna. Modesti shows Sirani’s artistic accomplishment to be a consequence of a broader stimulating setting, where an unexpected number of patrons, agents, and collectors support her with the same straightforwardness and willingness as for a male artist.” —Consuelo Lollobrigida, MA, PhD Art Historian, University of Arkansas, Rome Program