The city of Florence in Italy is making a significant effort in freeing its great Renaissance female Artists. In fact, in 2019, the carefully restored version of the Last Supper mural by Plautilla Nelli (1524‑1588) will go on show at the Santa Maria Novella Museum. It will also be its first time to be publicly displayed in 450 years. Is the Art world finally reinstalling women Artists as part of Art history?
Renaissance forgotten women Artists: the case of Plautilla Nelli
Great female Artists from the Renaissance painted unique works, from Madonnas to Last Suppers. Moreover, documents show that they often earned even more money than men. Nevertheless, their paintings went unseen and have been hidden away. It is now the rescue mission of restorer Rossella Lari in Florence to bring the little-known jewel of the Renaissance back to the audience. Linda Falcone of Advancing Women Artists (AWA), that excavates forgotten works, said to the Guardian: “that is a very significant moment, not only for Nelli but for all the forgotten women artists of the Renaissance, as well as for Artists today who don’t realize how rich a contribution women made to that era.” Indeed, very few women Artists names from the Renaissance pop up in Art history books. Despite the fact that many of them were the most accomplished followers of the Renaissance’s greatest movements such as Caravaggio, many of these women remain unknown.
Why were women Artists of the Renaissance more valued by their contemporaries?
By restoring and excavating more and more Artworks produced by women Artists from the Renaissance, studies have shown an oddity in history. Effectively, it seems that their notoriety and influence were much more valued in their own time. According to the reports and figures from the collective Guerilla Girls, they used to earn 81 cents for every dollar made by male Artists. However, painters like Nelli earned much more money than many men. This tendency was particularly relevant to the portraitists since portraits were used to seal the deal among families for marriage alliances. It also had to do with the fact that women were said to be more detailed-oriented, particularly when it came to draw jewellery and clothing. The ability to capture characters’ psychology was considered as a highly valuable asset as well.
The reasons why women Artists are often airbrushed from Art history
In spite of several years of feminist activism, women Artists have only been singled out for a few years. For example, the significant Artcurial‘s Art auction that took place in Paris in November 2017 included 20 Artworks of Camille Claudel. Until the second half of the 20th century, her name has been living in the shadow of Auguste Rodin as explained by Art-Trope in its article. Some may blame the majority of male Art academics who define Art history for undermining women Artists’ role. More and more museums and foundations are promoting worldwide women Artists trying to do them justice in Art history. Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement, since, for instance, only 5% of commercial London galleries show an equal number of male and female Artists. Art-Trope supports worldwide Artists regardless of their gender and background on the long term to make sure history does not repeat itself.
Read our article about Artcurial’s auction sale focusing on Camille Claudel’s sculptures here.
Source: The Guardian