Women Artists of the Seventeenth Century: Renaissance and Baroque

17th Century Female Painters, Sculptors, Engravers

The Fruit and Vegetable Seller (oil on panel)
The Fruit and Vegetable Seller by Louise Moillon. (Louise Moillon/Getty Images)

As Renaissance humanism opened up individual opportunities for education, growth, and achievement, a few women transcended gender role expectations.

Some of these women learned to paint in their fathers' workshops and others were noble women whose advantages in life included the ability to learn and practice the arts.

Women artists of the time tended, like their male counterparts, to focus on portraits of individuals, religious themes, and still life paintings. A few Flemish and Dutch women became successful, with portraits and still life pictures, but also more family and group scenes than women from Italy portrayed.

Giovanna Garzoni (1600 - 1670)

Still life with peasant and hens
Still life with peasant and hens, Giovanna Garzoni. (UIG via Getty Images/Getty Images)

One of the first women to paint still life studies, her paintings were popular. She worked at the court of the Duke of Alcala, the court of the Duke of Savoy and in Florence, where members of the Medici family were patrons. She was official court painter for the Grand Duke Ferdinando II.

Judith Leyster (1609 - 1660)

Self-Portrait by Judith Leyster
Self-Portrait by Judith Leyster. (GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)

A Dutch painter who had her own workshop and students, she produced most of her paintings before she married the painter Jan Miense Molenaer. Her work was confused with that of Frans and Dirck Hals until her rediscovery at the end of the 19th century and subsequent interest in her life and work.

Louise Moillon (1610 - 1696)

The Fruit and Vegetable Seller (oil on panel)
The Fruit and Vegetable Seller by Louise Moillon. (Louise Moillon/Getty Images)

French Huguenot Louise Moillon was a still life painter, her father was a painter and art dealer, and so was her stepfather. Her paintings, often of fruit and only occasionally including figures, have been described as "contemplative."

Geertruydt Roghman (1625 - ??)

Sloterkerk by Geertruydt Roghman
Sloterkerk. (https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/Wikimedia Commons)

A Dutch engraver and etcher, her images of women in ordinary life tasks—spinning, weaving, cleaning—are from the perspective of women's experience. Her name is also spelled Geertruyd Roghmann.

Josefa de Ayala (1630 - 1684)

The Sacrificial Lamb by Josefa de Ayala
The Sacrificial Lamb. (Walters Art Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

A Portuguese artist born in Spain, Josefa de Ayala painted a wide variety of themes, from portraits and still life paintings to religion and mythology. Her father was Portuguese, her mother from Andalusia.

She had many commissions to paint works for churches and for religious houses. Her specialty was the still life, with religious (Franciscan) undertones in a setting which could appear secular.

Maria van Oosterwyck (Maria van Oosterwijck) (1630 - 1693)

Vanitas - Still Life by Maria Van Oosterwyck
Vanitas - Still Life. (Wikimedia Commons)

A still life painter from the Netherlands, her work came to the attention of European royalty of France, Saxony, and England. She was monetarily successful, but was, like other women, excluded from membership in the painters guild.

Mary Beale (1632 - 1697)

Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn. Engraving by J Fitter after portrait by Mary Beale. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Mary Beale was an English portrait painter known as a teacher as well as known for her portraits of children. Her father was a clergyman and her husband a cloth manufacturer.

Elisabetta Sirani (1638 - 1665)

'Allegory of Painting' (self-portrait), 1658. Artist: Elisabetta Sirani
'Allegory of Painting' (self-portrait), 1658. Artist: Elisabetta Sirani. Heritage Images/Getty Images / Getty Images

Italian painter, she was also a musician and poet who focused on religious and historical scenes, including ​Melpomene, ​Delilah, ​Cleopatra, and Mary Magdalene. She died at 27, possibly poisoned (her father thought so, but a court didn't agree).

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 - 1717)

Surinam Caiman biting South American false coral snake by Maria Sibylla Merian
Surinam Caiman biting South American false coral snake by Maria Sibylla Merian. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Born in Germany of Swiss and Dutch ancestry, her botanical illustrations of flowers and insects are as notable as scientific studies as they are as art. She left her husband to join a religious community of Labadists, later moved to Amsterdam, and in 1699 she traveled to Suriname where she wrote and illustrated the book, Metamorphosis.

Elisabeth Sophie Cheron (1648 - 1711)

Élisabeth Sophie Chéron self portrait
Self Portrait. (Wikimedia Commons)

Elisabeth Sophie Cheron was a French painter who was elected to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture for her portraits. She was taught miniatures and enameling by her artist father. She was also a musician, poet, and translator. Though single most of her life, she married at age 60.

Teresa del Po (1649 - 1716)

Teresa del Po engraved

A Roman artist taught by her father, she's best known for a few mythological scenes that survive and she also painted portraits.Teresa del Po's daughter also became a painter. 

Susan Penelope Rosse (1652 - 1700)

Portrait of Mrs van Vrybergen, Susannah-Penelope Rosse
Portrait of Mrs van Vrybergen.

An English miniaturist, Rosse painted portraits for the court of Charles II.

Luisa Ignacia Roldan (1656 - 1704)

The Entombment of Christ, Luisa Ignacia Roldan
The Entombment of Christ. (Metropolitan Museum of Art/Wikimedia Commons/CC0)

A Spanish sculptor, Roldan became "Sculptor of the Chamber" to Charles II. Her husband Luis Antonio de los Arcos was also a sculptor.

Anne Killigrew (1660 -1685)

Venus Attired by the Three Graces, Anne Killigrew
Venus Attired by the Three Graces. (Wikimedia Commons)

A portrait painter at the court of James II of England, Anne Killigrew was also a published poet. Dryden wrote a eulogy for her.

Rachel Ruysch (1664 - 1750)

Fruit and Insects by Rachel Ruysch
Fruit and Insects by Rachel Ruysch. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Ruysch, a Dutch painter, painted flowers in a realistic style, probably influenced by her father, a botanist. Her teacher was Willem van Aelst, and she worked primarily in Amsterdam. She was court painter in Düsseldorf from 1708, patronized by the Elector Palatine. Mother of ten and wife of painter Juriaen Pool, she painted until she was in her 80s. Her flower paintings tend to have dark backgrounds with a brightly-lighted center.

Giovanna Fratellini (Marmocchini Cortesi) (1666 - 1731)

Self-Portrait by Giovanna Fratellini
Self-Portrait by Giovanna Fratellini. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Giovanna Fratellini was an Italian painter who trained with Livio Mehus and Pietro Dandini, then Ippolito Galantini, Domenico Tempesti and Anton Domenico Gabbiani. Many members of the Italian nobility commissioned portraits.

Anna Waser (1675 - 1713?)

Anna Waser Self-portrait
Self-portrait. (Kunsthaus Zürich/Wikimedia Commons)

From Switzerland, Anne Waser was known primarily as a miniaturist, for which she was acclaimed throughout Europe. She was a child prodigy, painting a notable self-portrait at age 12. 

Rosalba Carriera (Rosalba Charriera) (1675 - 1757)

Africa. Rosalba Giovanna Carriera
Africa. Rosalba Giovanna Carriera. (Heritage Images/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Carriera was a Venice-born portrait artist who worked in pastel. She was elected to the Royal Academy in 1720.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Women Artists of the Seventeenth Century: Renaissance and Baroque." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/women-artists-of-the-seventeenth-century-3528420. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 27). Women Artists of the Seventeenth Century: Renaissance and Baroque. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/women-artists-of-the-seventeenth-century-3528420 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Women Artists of the Seventeenth Century: Renaissance and Baroque." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/women-artists-of-the-seventeenth-century-3528420 (accessed April 2, 2023).