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Women Artists, Their Patrons, and Their Publics in Early Modern Bologna

Women Artists, Their Patrons, and Their Publics in Early Modern Bologna


This groundbreaking book seeks to explain why women artists were far more numerous, diverse, and successful in early modern Bologna than elsewhere in Italy. They worked as painters, sculptors, printmakers, and embroiderers; many obtained public commissions and expanded beyond the portrait subjects to which women were traditionally confined. Babette Bohn asks why that was the case in this particular place and at this particular time.


Drawing on extensive archival research, Bohn investigates an astonishing sixty-eight women artists, including Elisabetta Sirani and Lavinia Fontana. The book identifies and explores the factors that facilitated their success, including local biographers who celebrated women artists in new ways, an unusually diverse system of artistic patronage that included citizens from all classes, the impact of Bologna’s venerable university, an abundance of women writers, and the frequency of self-portraits and signed paintings by many women artists. In tracing the evolution of Bologna’s female artists from nun-painters to working professionals, Bohn proposes new attributions and interpretations of their works, some of which are reproduced here for the first time.

Featuring original methodological models, innovative and historically grounded insights, and new documentation, this book will be a crucial resource for art historians, historians, and women’s studies scholars and students.

Hardcover, 332 pages.