Impeccable "light still lifes" that conquered the Medici family and all of Italy: Giovanna Garzoni
Impeccable "light still lifes" that conquered the Medici family and all of Italy: Giovanna Garzoni

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, art was wholly owned by men - that's how we used to think. However, more and more often we learn about the great artists of the past. And even though they did not create monumental paintings, they made their own revolutions in painting, often ahead of their time. Such was Giovanna Garzoni, who conquered Italy in the 16th century with her impeccable "light still lifes" and botanical illustrations …

Chinese porcelain dish with cherries

Giovanna Garzoni was born in the town of Ascoli in 1600. This date was established thanks to one of her works, which indicated the year of creation and the age of the artist - Giovanna was then only sixteen years old. And the work was one of the botanical illustrations made by Giovanna commissioned by a local pharmacist … Giovanna came from a famous Venetian family - artists, artisans, scientists … Her first teacher was her father, a recognized jeweler, and soon her uncle, an artist who belonged to school of Jacopo Palma the Younger, a prominent Venetian master.

Still life with figs

Garzoni traveled a lot. In those days, even in Italy, which was distinguished by a certain free-thinking, such a way of life for a woman was on the verge of permissible. However, the artist was of little concern - like many other prohibitions concerning women in those days. In her youth, together with her brother Mateo, she left her hometown to go to Venice and continue her studies there. Young people learned the intricacies of calligraphy under the guidance of the artist Giacomo Ronya. There, in Venice, Giovanna got married … and divorced almost immediately. It is not known for certain what caused her separation from her husband. According to the most common version, Garzoni took a vow of chastity, but the family ignored the girl's desire to keep her freedom. But Giovanna did not give up and did not accept. The marriage was annulled in court, and the Venetians discussed this story for a long time - so, as a rumor, it has come down to our days. Obviously, Giovanna managed to defend her independence and subsequently did not marry again.

Still life by Giovanna Garzoni

Some time after the divorce, she and her brother moved to Naples, where her talent was appreciated by high-born patrons. And after Naples, Garzoni beckoned Rome - and she fell in love with this "eternal city", repeating more and more often in her letters: "How I would like to live and die in Rome!" In addition, while working in Naples, Giovanna met the art patron and collector Cassiano del Pozzo, who managed to find the artist rich clients in the city of her dreams.

Vase with Flowers. Botanical illustration

Portraits, flower arrangements and religious subjects, painted by her carefully and reverently, scattered from there throughout Italy … However, Garzoni did not stay in Rome for long, responding to the invitation of Christina of France, Duchess of Savoy - she called the girl to Turin. For some time she worked in Turin mainly in the field of portrait painting, but her first still lifes are also attributed to this period. Giovanna did not formally create her own "school", but in Turin they began to actively imitate her.

Self-portrait of the artist in adulthood. One of the portraits of the Turin period

Apparently, between the ages of thirty and forty, the artist also traveled outside her native country, since the influence of French and English artists is found in Garzoni's "light still lifes".

It is a rare case for baroque painting when an animal becomes the central figure of a painting

Garzoni came to Florence when she was in her early forties, and spent almost a decade there, working for the Medici family - very fruitfully. She was equally successful both as a portraitist and as a creator of botanical illustrations, working mainly in gouache on parchment paper. The Medici patronized the natural sciences, so Garzoni did a lot of sketches and sketches of plants.

Still life with pumpkins

Already in 1648, the historian and biographer Carlo Rudolfi mentioned her among the famous Italian painters. It was said that she "sets whatever price she wants for her work." And her customers agreed to these prices, paying tribute to the giftedness and impeccable technique of Garzoni. She managed her finances very rationally, setting aside a certain percentage for a comfortable old age. In the fifties, Garzoni settled in Rome, where she joined the Academy of St. Luke. Then she especially loved to paint vases with flowers. She had the hands of an artist, but the eyes of a scientist - and therefore each flower was painted clearly, in detail, but not dry. The petals are transparent and light, the leaves tremble from the light breath of the breeze …

Still life with a plate of green almonds and a rose

Garzoni lived for twenty years in Rome - as she dreamed of in her youth. In 1670, she died, bequeathed all her considerable fortune to the Academy of St. Luke, and was buried in her beloved city, in the Church of Saints Luke and Martina. Both with her life and with her painting, Garzoni destroyed all the vowel and unspoken laws of her time. The works of Giovanna Garzoni were significantly different from those created by her contemporaries and contemporaries. The latter could be grateful to her in many ways - it was Garzoni who was the first woman in Italy to start engaging in still lifes and botanical illustration.

Still life with a platter of citrus fruits

Still life, like landscape, has long been considered a secondary genre, but Garzoni's experiments and innovations went not only beyond genre restrictions, but also argued with the established techniques of Baroque painting. Baroque still lifes were painted on a dark background, but she created not so many such works.

The dark background is typical of Baroque painting

But she left behind a lot of drawings in tempera and gouache on parchment - drawings where overripe pears and bean pods, luxurious bouquets and antique dishes flaunt against a light background, as if snatched by the artist's tenacious gaze in the midst of a sunny summer day.

Dish with beans

The famous "plates" Garzoni were created by order of the same Medici, but already in the Roman period of her work. She, of course, with special care painted out details and subtle transitions of shades, delicate textures, exquisite ornaments - but at the same time masterly conveyed the gold of the sun's rays, the warmth of a summer afternoon and the airiness of space. Her main tool was not brushes, but light. And in this, Giovanna Garzoni, a wanderer and a rebel, was ahead of art for many, many years …

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