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Sheila Barker
Medici Archive Project

The Global Lives of Seventeenth-Century Women Artists: Giovanna Garzoni’s Real and Imaginary Travels

This talk explores the sophisticated and witty interpretation of cultural globalism in the art of Giovanna Garzoni (1600–1670). A specialist in miniatures on vellum, Garzoni was professionally employed at several seventeenth-century European courts, where collecting practices increasingly reflected the growing availability of goods that had circulated around the world, sometimes having been made exclusively for an export market. In an era when women were largely confined to their homes, Garzoni traveled widely within, and even beyond, Italy. Her curiosity about material culture and the natural world extended to the whole globe, as demonstrated by her carefully crafted still-life paintings of natural and fabricated items. Barker’s recent research on Garzoni’s artistic production has shown her to be one of the first Italian artists to take a serious interest in the customs and artisanal production of Ming China, incorporating carefully observed details into her own works. It would be limiting to describe Garzoni’s interest in imported objects as exoticism. In fact, it seems that she sought to naturalize foreign objects by showing them in concert with domestic ones. Through playful associations and poetic juxtapositions of objects brought from far away, her art suggests that our geographic position does not so much limit what we see, as much as the way we see it. This awareness of the inherent variety in both nature and artistic vision renders Garzoni’s art appreciably cosmopolitan, a term that could even be used to describe the artist herself.

Monday, May 10, 12:15–1:15 pm

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Based at the Medici Archive Project in Florence, Sheila Barker is Founding Director of the Jane Fortune Research Program on Women Artists and Executive Director of the institution’s global outreach program. Having received her doctorate in art history in 2002 from Columbia University, Dr. Barker is specialized in both the art and the medicine of Southern Europe in the 15th–18th centuries.

Dr. Barker’s extensive research in Italian archives has greatly expanded knowledge of pioneering women artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Giovanna Garzoni, Lucrezia Quistelli, and Teresa Berenice Vitelli. Besides numerous articles, she edited the books Artemisia Gentileschi in a Changing Light (2017), Women Artists in Early Modern Italy: Careers, Fame, and Collectors (2016), and Artiste nel chiostro: Produzione artistica nei monasteri femminili in età moderna (2015). In 2020 she curated a major exhibition for the Uffizi Galleries titled “The Immensity of the Universe in the Art of Giovanna Garzoni / La grandezza dell’universo nell’arte di Giovanna Garzoni.” In early 2021 Dr. Barker published the book Lives of Artemisia Gentileschi (London: Pallas Athena and Los Angeles: Getty Publications) and she has a second book, a monograph titled Artemisia Gentileschi, in production with the series Illuminating Women Artists for Lund Humphries and Getty Publications and scheduled to come out next spring. Additionally, her essays appear in two of this year’s major early modern art exhibitions: “Art as Women’s Work: The Professionalization of Women Artists in Italy, 1350-1800” for By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1600, opening soon in Hartford and Detroit; and “Andromeda Unchained: Women and Erotic Mythology in Renaissance Art, 1500-1650” for Mythological Passions: Titian Veronese Allori Rubens Ribera Poussin Van Dyck Velázquez, now on in Madrid.

This event is a Student Brown Bag Lunch, a visiting lecture chosen and organized by the second-year MA students.

This event is open to BGC students, faculty, fellows, and staff. This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event.