Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Painter in Her Atelier

Artist Unknown "Painter in Her Atelier" 1400s   Spencer Collection
This miniature is from an illuminated book entitled "Des cléres et nobles femmes." De mulieribus claris (Of Famous Women) was written by Giovanni Boccaccio and was first published in 1374. It became a runaway "bestseller" of its age and was copied and re-copied hundreds of times. This particular edition (MS. 33, f. 37v) is French and part of the Spencer Collection in the New York Public Library.

The painting shows the artist Marcia at work in her atelier. It is usually described as Marcia painting a self-portrait, as you can see the small mirror affixed to the arch next to the easel. The artist has set the painting in his or her "contemporary" 15th century France, but Marcia was actually an artist from ancient Roman times. From the wikipedia entry:

Iaia of Cyzicus ("Marcia") was a Roman painter, alive during the time of Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 BC).  She was a famous painter and ivory engraver. Most of her paintings are said to be of women. Among pictures ascribed to her was a large panel, in Naples, picture of an old woman and a self-portrait. She was said to have worked faster and painted better than her male competitors, Sopolis and Dionysius, which enabled her to earn more than them.


Carol Cram said...

I love this painting! It was great to stumble across your site because I've just published a novel about a woman painter in the fourteenth century. She's fictional, of course, since as far as I could discover, there is no documented evidence of women painting in 14th C Italy except perhaps for nuns illuminating manuscripts. I thought you might be interested! The novel is The Towers of Tuscany and it's on Amazon Kindle.

Great site; look forward to checking it out more.

Melanie Taylor said...

Interesting. Do you know who the ancient woman artist is who popularized self-portraits? I think I remember something about that.