Canvas Wall Art by Judith Leyster

Giovanna Garzoni

We don’t know much about the life of Italian painter Giovanna Garzoni. But what we do know sounds pretty good! She is a famous female artists painters

Giovanna Garzoni

Unlike the standard story of the female artist… unappreciated in her own era, struggling in the face of a male establishment and dying in obscurity, Giovanna was hugely successful in her lifetime. She commanded high prices for her paintings and died in comfort at the age of 70.

Accounts vary as to whether or not Giovanna ever married. Some historians believe she may have wed fellow painter, Tiberio Tinelli. However, if the marriage did take place, it did not last long.

Giovanna had famously sworn to die a virgin, which gained her the nickname ‘Chaste Giovanna’.


Either as a result of his wife’s vow of chastity, or because of his father-in-law’s belief that Tinelli was practising black magic, the marriage was annulled by 1624.

In 1639 Tinelli committed suicide. In the meantime, Giovanna had made a name for herself as a botanical artist. She travelled to many of the major courts of Europe, before settling in Rome in 1651.

giovanna garzoni


Artemisia Gentileshi

For many years, Artemisia Gentileschi’s artistic achievements were overshadowed by the story of her brutal rape at the hands of her private tutor, the painter Agostino Tassi.

Self portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi

As the daughter of well-known painter, Orazio Gentileschi, the young Artemisia began her artistic training in her father’s workshop. By the time she was just 17-years-old she had produced one of her best-known works, an interpretation of the Biblical story of Susannah and the Elders.

But only a year after this early triumph, Artemisia faced public exposure in one of the centuries most scandalous legal cases.

Wanting to develop his daughter’s prodigious skills, Orazio arranged for her to be tutored by Tassi. The married painter then conspired with a friend to violently rape his young pupil. For nine months after the initial assault Artemisia was compelled to continue in a sexual relationship with her assailant, who had offered to marry his victim in order to restore her perceived ‘loss of honour’.

But when word of the rape got our and it became clear that Tassi had no intention of wedding Artemisia, her father went to the legal authorities.

 Artemisia_Gentileschi painting

Over the course of the rape trial, which dragged on for many months, the judge forced Artemisia to undergo gynaecological examination and had her tortured with thumbscrews.

This was supposed to prove whether or not she was lying about the assault.

Ultimately Tassi was found guilty of the rape and was ordered to leave Rome in exile. But the sentence was never carried out.

After the trial, Artemisia Gentileschi was quickly married off to friend of the family Peter Antonio Stiattesi. They had at least one daughter, but the couple did not live together long.

She continued to work and find patrons throughout her life, but her reputation suffered in years following her death. In the 20th century her dramatic, psychologically acute canvases gained new recognition. She has now taken her place as one of the major artists of the 17th century.

Judith Leyster

This Dutch Golden Age painter slipped in the cracks of history until 1893.

For more than centuries after her death in 1660, almost all her works were incorrectly attributed to either her husband Jan Miense Molenaer or to fellow Dutch painter, Frans Hals.

Much of this misattribution may have to do with deliberate deception.

On at least one of her paintings Judith Leyster’s distinctive monogram ‘JL’ followed by a star, had been “crudely altered” by a later seller to include an interlocking ‘FH’.

judith leyster selfportrait

Frans Hals has long been considered one of the finest painters of the Dutch Golden Age and his works still fetch much more at auction than the comparatively obscure Leyster’s.

When it came to light in 1893 that Hal’s signature had been forged onto Leyster’s painting The Jolly Companions, it resulted in a trial in which the firm who had originally sold the painting to its present owner agreed to buy the painting back, plus £500 in costs.

At the time of the trial Judith Leyster was regarded as a minor imitator of Hals.

But in the century following her rediscovery, her reputation has grown.

These days, works by Leyster are on display in the major public collections around the world, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Louvre, the National Gallery in London, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.


Fede Galizia

Fede Galizia’s ability to sumptuously render light on the surface of objects, in particular jewels, made her a popular portrait painter during her lifetime. However, most of her surviving works are still-life compositions.

Fede Galizia

Even as a child her artistic abilities were widely admired. She trained with her father, in Milan, where she lived and worked until her death from plague in 1630.

Fede never married. Her paintings are detailed and highly restrained, with a delicate balance of light and shadow.

Little is known of her personal life, but she is known to have received many commissions from both religious institutions and secular clients.



Chen Shu

Chen Shu is one of the few great female landscape painters in Chinese art history. Born to a high-ranking family in Zhejiang province, the young Shu was able to learn art from her father, who was also an accomplished painter.

Chen Shu's landscape painting

Unusually for a woman in her era, she received a fairly complete education in arts and classics. After the death of her husband, Shu took to selling her artwork to supplement the family income while raising her son as the head of her own household.

Even more unusually for the time, Chen Shu took in her own students including art historian and collector Zhang Geng.

When her son reached maturity, he excelled himself as a statesman in the imperial court. Though his position he introduced his mother’s works to the emperor, who became her patron.


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