Their work lacks nothing when compared with better-known masters, yet a great number of incredible female artists have been forgotten by history. Their rediscovery has officially begun and involves prestigious museums throughout the world. At the Palazzo Reale, the exhibition Le Signore dell’Arte reunites over 150 paintings to pay homage to 34 Italian artists who lived during the 15th and 16th Centuries, when choosing to become a professional artist was decidedly an unusual choice for a woman. The test of time proved both the talent and passion of the most obstinate, capable of navigating a totally male and competitive field in order to conquer the grand courts of Europe. Some, such as Artemisia Gentileschi, made a comeback in the second millennium with important exhibitions and auctions for millions. At Palazzo Reale, they are presented both with their works and their stories, offering a notably varied body of work. There are pieces that have never been in an exhibition, such as the Pala della Madonna dell’Itria by Sofonisba Anguissola, created in Paternò, in Sicily, having always remained on the island but, today, the subject of a full restoration, as well as other masterpieces, such as the Chess Match by the same artist, kept in Poland for ages. We meet painters unknown to the public at large, such as the Roman noblewoman Claudia del Bufalo, Florence’s Lucrezia Quistelli, cited by Vasari in Vite and then lost in the void, or the Sicilian Rosalia Novelli, the feminine side of the island’s Baroque presence, while advanced technology brings us to the backstage of a precious oil on parchment work by Giovanna Garzoni, who worked in Venice, Naples, Turin and Rome. We can follow Bologna’s Lavinia Fontana as she marries painter Giovan Paolo Zappi only to make him her assistant eventually and Sofonisba as she dialogues with the great Antoon Van Dyck in plague-infested Palermo. Stories of courage and rebellion, acute and penetrating gazes, sensual and delicate talents mapping out an impassioned itinerary which can also be enjoyed in its virtual version with reservations available on the museum’s website.
Francesca Grego - © 2021 ARTE.it for Bulgari Hotel Milano