Posts Tagged ‘17th century’

Art: Georges de La Tour, 17th century.
I’m not suggesting that 17th century female investors were pickpockets, but they knew what they were doing.

Do you get the feeling these days that history is in constant flux? It all has to do with how past historians emphasized the role of people with whom they identified, omitting the perspective of women, say, or indigenous people and people of color.

The Guardian is good at finding research with a new historical angle, as in today’s article about 17th century female arts investors. Who knew?

Dalya Alberge reported recently on research into the women who bankrolled a rival to the Globe theatre, which we know was famous for Shakespeare’s productions.

“Male performers may have dominated the early modern stage,” Alberge writes, “but female investors were a driving force behind one of the foremost playhouses of the 17th century, according to new research.

“Academics have discovered that women made up a large part of the financial force behind the Fortune theatre, the great rival to the Globe, partly built by the actor for whom Christopher Marlowe wrote plays, and where Thomas Middleton’s dramas were first staged.

“While a few women investors in the Fortune were previously known, it has now been revealed that they made up a third of the playhouse’s financial backers between the mid-1620s and late 1640s. Of 71 investors, including the carpenter who had worked on the playhouse, 24 were women and, from time to time, owned the majority of shares. While some inherited theirs, others purchased them for themselves, despite having no previous connection with the theatre.

“Lucy Munro, professor of Shakespeare and early modern literature at King’s College London, told the Observer that, in researching the playhouse, she never expected to discover that women had such a huge financial stake in it. …

“ ‘We know that the people who performed in plays at the Fortune were men and boys, but I find it really exciting that these women thought that the theatre was for them, and that it wasn’t just for men.’

“The Fortune theatre was built in 1600 by Edward Alleyn, one of the foremost actors of his day, and his stepfather-in-law, Philip Henslowe, the most important English theatre owner and manager of the Elizabethan age. …

“Its initial resident company was the Admiral’s Men, on whom James I bestowed the patronage of his son, Prince Henry. Audiences flocked to see plays such as Doctor Faustus by Marlowe and The Roaring Girl by Thomas Dekker and Middleton. The playhouse was named after the Roman goddess of fortune but it was destroyed by a fire in 1621, almost a decade after the Globe burned down.

“The research has been conducted by Munro and Clare McManus, professor of early modern literature and theatre at the University of Roehampton.

“In [an] online post, they write: ‘In order to finance rebuilding the playhouse – this time in brick – Alleyn created a 12-part lease, issuing full and half shares in the second Fortune to investors who paid £83 6s 8d for a full share and £41 13s 4d for a half share. This would be around £11,000 [$13,000] and £5,500 [$6,600] today, so leaseholders had to be relatively well-off.’

“But they add: ‘Most of these women came from what historians have termed the “middling sort” – those who were neither very rich nor very poor. They were the daughters, wives and widows of London tradesmen, officials and actors. Many of them had enough literacy to leave signatures or complex marks on legal documents such as wills and depositions.’ Munro said: ‘These playhouses were vulnerable but, when it was going well, they could make a lot of money.’ …

“The Fortune’s female investors included Margaret Wayte Wigpitt, widow of its bricklayer Thomas, and Elizabeth Pierpoint, a servant whose appreciative mistress had left her two half shares.

“While documentation for early modern playhouse investment rarely survives, original lease documents issued by Alleyn are within the archive of his papers at Dulwich College, the charity he founded in 1619.

“The academics write … ‘These fascinating documents detail the payment – or nonpayment – of rent by the Fortune leaseholders, quarter by quarter, between 1626 and 1649, when the college evicted the leaseholders for nonpayment of rent during the civil war. …

“Asked why the Fortune’s female investment had been overlooked until now, Munro said documents had been ‘almost hiding in plain sight’ in the archives: ‘They are catalogued, but only in an outlined sort of way. I’d actually come across a reference from a scholar saying that the Fortune’s accounts don’t survive. Well, they do.’

“Noting that they also studied wills and other documents at the National Archives at Kew, she believes historians have often stopped researching after reaching 1616, the year of Shakespeare’s death, because they were more interested in him than anything else: ‘But interesting things happened after that.’ ”

Can’t help wondering what else these women were investing in. After all, it was really not entirely new in the 1600s for women to invest. Remember my post of a couple years ago about a female investor back in 1870 BC? Read that here. More at the Guardian, here.

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Art: Artemisia Gentileschi via Wikimedia Commons.
Artemisia Gentileschi, an an Italian Baroque painter, is considered one of the 17th century’s most accomplished artists. Shown here is her “Allegory of Inclination” (1616).

Have you been seeing the name of seventeenth-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi mentioned more these days? I have. Finally the world is coming to grips the astonishing proposition that some female artists are better than many male artists.

Elaine Velie has some thoughts on Gentileschi at Hyperallergic.

“In 1616, the 22-year-old artist Artemisia Gentileschi painted a nude woman perched in the clouds and holding a compass at the Florence home of Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, Michaelangelo’s great-nephew. The work was the first in the Buonarroti family’s home gallery dedicated to their famous ancestor, and the impasto ceiling painting, likely a self-portrait, was also one of Gentileschi’s first commissions. ‘Allegory of Inclination’ remained untouched for around 70 years until a descendant of Michelangelo Buonarroti commissioned the Late Baroque painter Baldassarre Franceschini (il Volterrano) to paint draping over the nude figure in the interest of modesty.

“Now, the former Buonarroti residence is the Casa Buonarroti museum, and a team of conservators there is working to ‘virtually restore the original appearance’ of the painting in a project called ‘Artemisia Unveiled.’ Using imaging techniques such as X-rays and raking light to examine the over 400-year-old brush strokes, the team will determine which additions were Gentileschi’s and which were Franceschini’s, and the final result will be an uncensored image.

“Elizabeth Wick, the restorer leading the project, told the Florentine that the team will not physically alter the existing painting for two reasons: Franceschini’s layer is considered a historic addition that contributes to the painting’s story, and since the two layers of paint were applied only 70 years apart, removing Franceschini’s draping would likely damage Gentileschi’s original coat of paint. …

“Gentileschi’s success in the male-dominated art world of 17th-century Italy, and the woman-focused subject matter of her work, have turned her into somewhat of a feminist icon. Although she earned recognition during her lifetime, Gentileschi’s work has been revisited in recent years through museum shows and other conservation projects.”

More at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall, but contributions are sought.

At Wikipedia, we learn that Gentileschi started out working in the style of Caravaggio and “was producing professional work by the age of 15. In an era when women had few opportunities to pursue artistic training or work as professional artists, Gentileschi was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence, and she had an international clientele.

“Many of Gentileschi’s paintings feature women from myths, allegories, and the Bible, including victims, suicides, and warriors. Some of her best known subjects are Susanna and the Elders (particularly the 1610 version in Pommersfelden), Judith Slaying Holofernes (her 1614–1620 version is in the Uffizi gallery), and Judith and Her Maidservant (her version of 1625 is in the Detroit Institute of Arts).

“Gentileschi was known for being able to depict the female figure with great naturalism and for her skill in handling color to express dimension and drama. … For many years Gentileschi was regarded as a curiosity, but her life and art have been reexamined by scholars in the 20th and 21st centuries. She is now regarded as one of the most progressive and expressive painters of her generation.”

P.S. Check out SJ Bennett’s Queen Elizabeth II murder mystery, All the Queen’s Men, in which the Queen’s Gentileschi painting plays an important role.

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Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine by Artemisia Gentileschi, a painter whose reputation is second only to Caravaggio among 17th-century Italian artists.

Lately, I’ve been following a really cool twitter feed called Women’s Art, @womensart1. It’s astonishing how many women, known and unknown, have been creating beautiful works over the centuries. Paintings, embroidery, sculpture, photos, quilts — you name it. The pictures have been an absolute treat.

Speaking of women’s art, I just learned about Artemisia Gentileschi, a painter whose reputation is apparently second only to Caravaggio among 17th-century Italian artists.

Paul Jeromack reported at Art Newspaper that she recently scored a big price at auction. Too bad she doesn’t get to benefit.

“A previously unknown Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine,” writes Jeromack, “sold at Drouot in Paris on 19 December for an artist record of €2,360,600 [about $2.9 million]. …

“The work, which dates from the same period (1614-16) as another Saint Catherine picture by the artist held by the Uffizi, was discovered by auctioneer Christophe Joron-Derem and presented in his sale of European paintings. …

“Lionised as an icon of feminist empowerment and artistic accomplishment since the 1970s … Gentileschi was canny enough to exploit her singular fame as a female painter in the form of self-portraits in the guise of religious or allegorical figures (her most notable depiction by another artist is by her friend Simon Vouet, who portrayed her with her brushes and palette and a wonderfully commanding swagger).  …

“Despite the artist’s popularity, she is not represented in many important museums: neither of the National Galleries in London or Washington, DC, nor the Getty, nor the Louvre, which curiously did not pre-empt the sale under French patrimony laws. While the picture’s relatively modest size of 71 sq. cm would endear it to private collectors, one hopes a major museum would be astute enough to acquire it.” More here.

Don’t you love it when someone “discovers” a lost masterpiece? That’s what I dream of — finding a masterpiece at a garage sale. Or like the blogger Things I Find in the Garbage, finding something amazing dumped on the curb.

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