The Jane Fortune Research Program on Women Artists in the Age of the Medici

Sheila Barker - Director

The  Medici Grand Duchy (1537-1743) coincided with the first professionalization of women artists in Italy. At the same time, a number of women artists worked outside of the professional sphere, including nuns and noblewomen. Established in 2010 by the late author and philanthropist Dr. Jane Fortune, this research program has focused on women artists active during the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries.  In its ten years of activity, the program has been a fertile source of publications, lectures, digital resources, and conference papers. Many younger scholars have taken part in this quest by means of internships that provided training in archival research.

In 2014, the Jane Fortune Research Program was awarded the “Best Digital Scholarship” Prize of the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. Below are a few other accomplishments we are proud of:


‘La Grandezza dell’universo’ nell’arte di Giovanna Garzoni, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, 28 May – 28 June 2020. For worldwide press coverage, click here.


The Colors of Paradise – Painting Miniatures in Italian Convents, ca. 1300-1700, International Conference, Biblioteca di San Marco, Florence, 11-12 October 2018. Keynote Speaker: Catherine Turrill Lupi

A Legacy of Ladies: Women Artists and Patrons at the Late Medici Court, Palazzo Alberti, 21 April 2017. Keynote Speaker: Adelina Modesti

Artemisia Gentileschi: Interpreting New Evidence, Assessing New AttributionsSala Bianca, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, 6 May 2015; Harold Acton Library, British Institute in Florence, 7 May 2015 (in partnership with the British Institute in Florence and the Polo Museale Fiorentino). Keynote speaker: Mary D. Garrard

Artiste nel Chiostro. Produzione artistica nei monasteri femminili in età moderna, Sala dell’Annunciazione, Convento della Santissima Annunziata, 4-5 October 2013 (in partnership with Biblioteca Domenicana di Santa Maria Novella). Keynote Speakers: Sharon Strocchia and Gabriella Zarri

Women Artists in Early Modern Italy, Auditorium dell’Archivio di Stato di Firenze, 2 March 2012. Keynote Speaker: Sheila ffolliot


“Andromeda Unchained: Women and Erotic Mythology in Renaissance Art, 1500-1650,” in Mythological Passions: From Titian to Velázquez, exh. cat., ed. M. Falomir Faus and A. Vergara. Madrid: Museo del Prado, forthcoming,  2021.

“Art as Women’s Work: The Professionalization of Women Artists in Italy, 1350-1800,” in Artemisia Gentileschi and Italian Women Artists around 1600, exh. cat., ed. E. Straussman-Pflanzer and O. Tostman. Hartford and Detroit: Wadsworth Atheneum and the Detroit Institute of Arts, forthcoming 2021.

“Artistic Production as a Conduit for Nuns’ Networks. The Case of Suor Teresa Berenice Vitelli at Sant’Apollonia in Florence,” co-authored with Julie James, in Convent Networks in Early Modern Italy, ed. M. Dunn and S. Weddle. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers (at press).

“The Muse of History: Artemisia Gentileschi’s First Four Centuries of Immortal Fame,” in Artemisia, exh. cat., ed. Letizia Treves. London: National Gallery, 2020, pp. 62–73.

Exhibition Review: “A Tale of Two Women Painters: Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana,” Museo del Prado, Oct. 22, 2019–Feb 2, 2020, The Burlington Magazine 162.1402 (2020), pp. 59-61.


“The Universe of Giovanna Garzoni. Art, Mobility, and the Global Turn in the Geographical Imaginary,” in The Immensity of the Universe in the Art of Giovanna Garzoni, ed. S. Barker. Florence: Gallerie degli Uffizi / Sillabe, 2020, pp. 16-29.

“Art in the Service of Botany: Giovanna Garzoni’s Herbal at Dumbarton Oaks,” co-authored with Anatole Tchikine, in The Immensity of the Universe in the Art of Giovanna Garzoni, exh. cat, ed. S. Barker. Florence: Gallerie degli Uffizi / Sillabe, 2020, pp. 36-45.

“The First Biography of Artemisia Gentileschi: Self-Fashioning and Proto-Feminist Art History in Cristofano Bronzini’s Notes on Women Artists,” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes, 60.3 (2019), pp. 404–435.

“Artemisia’s Money. The Entrepreneurship of a Woman Artist in Seventeenth-Century Florence,” in Artemisia Gentileschi in a Changing Light, ed. S. Barker. Turnhout: Harvey Miller, 2018, pp. 59–88.

Exhibition Review: “Artemisia Gentileschi e il suo tempo,” Palazzo Braschi, Rome. Early Modern Women, 12.2 (2018), pp. 163–171.

“‘Marvellously Gifted’: Giovanna Garzoni’s First Visit to the Medici Court,” The Burlington Magazine, 160 (2018), pp. 654–659.

“Lucrezia Quistelli (1541-1594), a Woman Artist in Vasari’s Florence,” in Women Artists of Early Modern Italy. Careers, Fame, and Collectors, ed. S. Barker. Turnhout: Harvey Miller, 2016, pp. 47–80.

“Painting and Humanism in Early Modern Florentine Convents,” in Artiste nel chiostro. Produzione artistica nei monasteri femminili in età moderna, ed. S. Barker, Memorie Domenicane, 46 (2015), pp. 103–137.

“A New Document Concerning Artemisia Gentileschi’s Marriage,” The Burlington Magazine, 156 (2014), pp. 803–804.

“The Public Figure of the Woman Artist in Florence, 1770-1859,” in Women, Femininity, and Public Space in European Visual Culture, 1789-1914, ed. T. Balducci and H. B. Jensen. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2014, pp. 65–79.

“Irene Parenti Duclos’s Copy of the Madonna del Sacco: Politics and Perfect Painting,” in S. Barker, et al., Irene Parenti Duclos. A Work Restored, an Artist Revealed. Florence: The Florentine Press, 2011, pp. 26–41.

Catalog Entries

“Plautilla Nelli. Initial A: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple with Two Nuns,” Catalogue entry in Suor Plautilla Nelli. Arte e devozione sulle orme di Savonarola, Galleria degli Uffizi, exh. cat., ed. Navarro. Livorno: Sillabe, pp. 70–73.

“Plautilla Nelli. Initial A: The Adoration of the Christ Child with the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and Two Nuns,” Catalogue entry in Suor Plautilla Nelli. Arte e devozione sulle orme di Savonarola, exh. cat., ed. Navarro. Livorno: Sillabe, pp. 74–77.