|Giovanna Fratellini "Self Portrait" 1720 The Uffizi Gallery|
Giovana Fratellini (1666-1731) was a Florentine artist of the Baroque period, who started off life as a lady-in-waiting to the royal court. A well-born young woman, she was presented by her family to serve the granduchessa Vittoria della Rovere, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany. It was soon discovered by the art-loving Medici court that Fratellini had a natural talent and fondness for drawing. She was encouraged and received professional art training. She specialized in miniatures and small memento portraits but also worked larger-scale and occasionally tackled religious subjects. It was said of her portrait work that she gave “all the tenderness and warmth of life.” Her work was in great demand. She traveled widely to execute commissions for members of the ducal court and the various royal Italian families. She was married and had a son. She was appointed to the prestigious Accademia delle Arte del Disegno of Florence in 1706 and was elected to full membership in 1710.
Fratellini was proficient in several mediums: pastel, chalk, enamel and oil painting. Interestingly, although this self-portrait (above) was done in pastel, we see her using oil paints. She depicts herself as a lively and appealing middle-aged lady (age 54), happily engaged in painting a likeness of her son, the artist Lorenzo Fratellini. Giovanna Fratellini herself took part in training her son in his profession. Contemporary accounts also credit her with training and mentoring a young female painter Violante Beatrice Series, who took Fratellini's place as court painter upon her demise.
Fratellini is often compared to the Venetian painter Rosalba Carriera (1675-1757.) The two artists actually met around 1719 when Fratellini traveled to Venice complete one of her many court commissions. Fratellini is said to have greatly admired Carriera, who in turn extended to her esteemed colleague the warmest and kindest of receptions, a “gentilissime accoglienze.”