Giovanna Garzoni is best known for her watercolor paintings of animals, and plants.
However, she also painted religious images as well as portraits. Giovanna traveled
throughout Italy and worked for many aristocrats. This was very uncommon for women of that era.
Giovanna was a member of the Saint Lukes Academy for several decades.
Much of Giovanna's early pieces had a strong influence from Jacopo Liogozzi. Giovanna
had a successful career; she was one of the first women still-life artists whose
artwork always sold for large sums of money. One of her earliest works was a book
of calligraphy published in 1625; it was adorned with images of fruits, birds, and
flowers. Giovanna often painted zoological and botanical images for the Medici Court.
The Flemish and Dutch were not the only people who painted still-life during
this era. Giovanna Garzoni, who was Italian, was one of the most sought after artists
who painted still-life. There is very little information about Giovanna's early
life and where she learned her artistic skills. What little information that does
exists is hard to find and many of the sources I found contradict each other on
certain facts. One fact that is known to be true is that her first signed painting,
"A Holy Family", was painted when she was
Giovanna was born in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 1600. Art historians believe that
while living in Florence Giacomo Rogni taught her to paint, although there is no
proof of this. She was also influenced by Jacopo Liogozzi, who was a well-known
Giovanna, like her male contemporaries, traveled and worked in Naples, Florence,
Venice, and Rome.
Garzoni was highly respected in her chosen field due to the fact that she had
many commissions from many wealthy and famous people of her era. She gained an artistic
freedom that was uncommon for women of the 17th century in Italy.
Artemisia Gentileschi and Giovanna both worked for the Spanish Viceroy while
in Naples in 1630. Garzoni was well paid for her artwork, so much so that she retired
Giovanna was primarily known for her skills as a miniature painter. In 17th
century Italy the term "miniature" had a different interpretation; it was used to
describe watercolor work that was painted on fine parchment. Giovanna was said to
have preferred this form of painting, this fact is proven by her many religious
paintings, portraits, and by the studies of plants and animals she would produce
using this style. Many of her portraits have been described and technically dazzling.
Giovanna's style of still-life painting was very different from the styles used
by Flemish painters. The Flemish style of still-life painting was very elegant and
highly detailed. Giovanna's style was simple understated elegance. But, the simplicity
was deceptive. Using a few elements of fruits, insects or animals, and perhaps a
vase against a light background Giovanna created an interaction between textures
and shapes. These were sophisticated arrangements.
Giovanna was said to have been fascinated with science.
This comes as no surprise
since two of her most important commissions came from Duke Ferdinand II de'Medici
and his brother, Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici who were well-known scientists.
Giovanna died in 1670; she left all her worldly possessions and a substantial amount of money to the Academia di San Luca, where she was a member. There was one condition to her donations; they had to erect a monument to her in their church.
The monument was completed in 1698.
She was highly admired and was patronized by collectors in Italy and Spain.
Almost 40 of her paintings have now been traced in Florentine collections, and others were recorded in Medici inventories of the
17th and 18th centuries. Her finest work is a intricate mixture of art and
science rivaled by few specialists in this genre.
For More information on other lesser known female artists that
you should read about, please check Lesser known female artists.
Women And The Art World. 2nd ed. : Alpine Publishers, 1971.
Women Artists. 1st ed. : Ruggio Publishing, 1977