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 16.

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 still-life artist.

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 at 43.

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

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