The Women of the Work of Art


    “Le Muse Nascoste” by Lauretta Colonnelli tells sixteen stories of women who changed the history of Art.

    In a society where gender discrimination is a real problem, the art world is no exception either.

    “Le muse nascoste” di Lauretta Colonnelli, 2020, Giunti Editore

    Although initiatives dedicated to women artists are increasing, think of FAC, The Feminist Art Coalition, in which more than 70 institutions have joined together to promote gender equality in art, the disparity does not seem to decrease either on the price of works (between 16-30% less) or on the presence of women artists in museums and represented by galleries.

    According to data presented in The Art Market 2020 – An Art Basel and UBS Report, women artists represent 44% of the artists exhibited in galleries, while in the secondary market, only 6% of total sales come from works by women artists and the percentage of works over $10 million is around 5%.

    The struggle of women in defense of their rights in the art world has ancient origins and is not limited to market issues but also concerns the history of works of art, the same ones that have made artists of all times among the most quoted, appreciated and famous in the history of art.

    Think of works such as Botticelli’s Venus, Lippi’s Madonna and Child, Hopper’s mythical woman in the bar….

    Those women’s faces are now carved in our daily imagination but the only name we know is that of the painter who immortalized them on his canvas.

    Who are the women who made the fortunes of artists like Hopper, Cézanne, and Millais?

    Journalist Lauretta Colonnelli has given an answer to this question in her book Le Muse nascoste (The Hidden Muses), which deals with the forgotten protagonists of great works of art, telling the stories of the female characters hidden in the canvases of famous paintings.

    An anthology of sixteen lives of women who have been wives or daughters like Marguerite Matisse, daughter of the master of Fauvisme, or lovers, models or women of power.

    There is also no shortage of artists themselves such as Josephine Verstille Nivison, a promising painter as well as the wife and model of Edward Hopper. Or Kandinskji’s fiancée, Gabriele Münter, also a talented painter.

    Others are mysterious, though very famous, female figures, such as Mantegna’s Nana, or Jusepe de Ribera’s bearded woman.

    Today, thanks to Lauretta Colonnelli’s book, these women have found their names again and have finally been embodied in historically existent characters. 

    As the author herself argues, “For centuries they had remained unknown, lost in the endless multitude of anonymous people that Michel Foucault labeled hommes infâmes, not because they were without morals, but because they lacked fame, voice, and a narrative of themselves.”

    And you, do you know the mystery women in the artwork?


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