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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fede Galizia

Cherries in a Silver Compote, 1610, Fede Galizia
I try never to pass up a chance to write about an outstanding woman artist, especially those of the distant pass. Women artist now, and especially then, are highly underrepresented in the annuls of art history set down by predominantly male writers (now and then). I know from my own biographical pieces on artists written over the past eight years how easy it is to automatically think of past artists in the masculine gender, even though I'm quite aware of the feminine gender's important contributions to the arts. Likewise, when I do write about women artists, I come across like a broken records in that, while their art my differ substantially, their struggles to gain acceptance in the male dominated art world are all quite similar.
Still-life, Fede Galizia. The scale, complexity and variety of produce and producers almost defy the definition of a still-life.
Almost without fail, women artists have suffered from poor art educational opportunities, gender prejudice, sexual assault, the impositions of motherhood, domineering husbands, and dozens of forms of adverse stereotyping. It's rare indeed to read about a woman artist who has not encountered all or most of these struggles in managing to gain some degree of recognition and success.
Noli Me Tangere, 1616, Fede Galizia
And then there's the Italian painter, Fede Galizia, born around 1574 (but no later than 1578). Somewhat strangely, perhaps, she encountered virtually none of the negative factors mentioned above during a career of some thirty years. It would likely have been much longer and more illustrious had she not succumbed to the Black Plague pandemic which struck her hometown of Milan (and indeed, most of Italy) in 1630. She died at the age of fifty-six.
A modern-day miniature painter. In the past, many
miniature painters had their careers cut short with

Nunzio Galizia, Fede Galizia,
portrait of her father

Fede was the daughter and pupil of Nunzio Galizia (right), a miniature painter who worked from about 1573-95. Like many other female artists of that era, it is presumed that she learned her artistic skills from her father. If so, this very early training in the art of painting miniatures, and the level of detail the genre requires, provided the basis for Fede Galizia’s career as an artist. She first came to notice at the age of twelve. By 1596 she was well known for her portraits and religious works. The style of her portraits derived from the naturalism of the Italian Renaissance, as seen in the work of such artists as Moretto da Brescia, Giovanni Battista Moroni and Lorenzo Lotto. However, the most important part of her oeuvre, for which she earned her place in art history, are her still-lifes which are among the earliest examples of this genre.
Judith with the Head of Holophernes, 1596, Fede Galizia.
Galizia's Judith with the Head of Holophernes (above) is a rather tame, and notably bloodless scene, especially as compared to that of Artemisia Gentileschi (below), or Caravaggio (bottom). She was not an artist well suited to paint such a brutal scene. As might be expected from an a portrait artist, Galizia's emphasis is on Judith's rich, highly detailed dress and jewelry rather than the anger and gore of a coldblooded murder. (Note the pristine knife blade.) Galizia's Judith is said to be a self-portrait.
Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1611-12, Artemisia Gentileschi
During much of her lifetime, Fede Galizia was recognized and praised mostly for her portraits such as that of Paolo Morigia (below), from 1596, and several religious works. However, she is now mainly remembered as a still-life painter as seen in her gorgeous (and delectable) Cherries in a Silver Compote, (top) from 1610. She worked on a small scale and her paintings are executed with exquisite finesse on wood panels. Her naturalism was an inspiration to subsequent Italian still-life painters, most notably Panfilo Nuvolone, also from Milan. Little is known about Galizia’s personal life despite her enduring importance as a pioneer of Italian still-lifes. She never married, had no children, and had successful career as an artist in Milan. Unlike so many other women artist of her time and talent, except for her untimely death, I'd be tempted to say she "lived happily ever after."

Portrait of Paolo Morigia, 1596, Fede Galizia.
Notice the precise attention to details.
(Yes, they had spectacles in 1596, but in
a style only Harry Potter could love.)

 Judith Beheading Holofernes,
1599, Caravaggio


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