ELISABETTA SIRANI: THE ARTIST OF NARRATIVE DRAMAS

Interpreting established artistic models and iconographic traditions in a more personal and intimate manner, the religious and mythological paintings of Italian painter Elisabetta Sirani were highly acclaimed for their dramatic lyricism.

The short-lived Baroque Virtuoso painter, Elisabetta Sirani was born on January 8, 1638, in Bologna, Italy. Trained by her painter father Giovanni Andrea Sirani, Elisabetta was one of the most successful female artists in an era that denied academy training to women. Educated in voice, harp, poetry, classical literature and the Bible, Sirani drew on a wealth of influences for subjects. Sirani's narrative organization and lyricism is closed to that of her father's teacher, Guido Reno, but she employed more dramatic contrasts of light and shade, gently flowing brushstrokes and more brilliant colors.

Sirani was exceptionally prolific, producing almost two hundred works over a period of thirteen years. She drew and painted with an ease and speed that astonished her admirers. An independent painter by 19, Sirani ran her family's workshop. When her father became incapacitated by gout, she supported her parents, three siblings and herself entirely through her art. A celebrity in her city, Sirani's painting were acquired by kings, cardinals, dukes, merchants and academics from Bologna and across Europe.

Sirani was a full member of the Academia di san Luca in Rome. Her painting “Virgin and Child” is now in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, and selected for the United States Postal Service Christmas Holiday Stamp series in October 1994.

At the age of 27, Sirani suddenly died in still unexplained circumstances on August 28, 1665, in Bologna and received an ostentatious funeral by the Bolognese authorities. Her biography was included in Carlo Cesare Malvasia's “Lives of the Bolognese Painters” published in 1678.

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