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The painting style and technique exploited by Julio Romero de Torres has been for decades now the sole painting fashion in Córdoba thus superseding a great deal of excellent painters that as of today are completely unknown to the vast majority of the public. One of them is Antonio Palomino (1655-1726), considered by many the best Spanish mural painter after Goya. This painter is not only known by his wonderful art pieces but also by his extensive and rigorous work as an essayist.

Inspired by Giorgo Vasari, he was the first one in Spain to publish a catalog of painters, a catalog that would include the first biography of Diego Velázquez in El Museo Pictórico y Escala Óptica, key bibliography to Spanish Baroque painting. There is, among the 300 pages that make the essay, one page dedicated to list and comment the female painters up until that moment. It could very well seems a ridiculous percentage to our XXIst century eyes but then it accounted for a daring deed, as in Europe there were no female painters nor were they allowed to be so. This sole page written by Palomino has ever since served as benchmark to study and research many other forgotten and silenced female painters. Perhaps this odd page had a lot to do with Palomino’s sister Francisca as she was also a good painter: unfortunately as of today her work is lost and her figure ignored.

The first one to ever made this sort of inventories was Giorgo Vasari who compiled a total of 133 biographies of artist (all of them men except from one women: the sculptor Properzia de Rossi), therefore this sole page in Palomino’s work meant the first inventory of female painters ever. For its great interest I have copied this revolutionary and valuable page below. I have searched the Internet and have managed to gather various links to each one of the cited artists so you can see for yourselves the quality and harshness most of these women had to endure so that they could paint.

It was not an easy job as there are some women yet to be studied and reinstated and very little could be found about them. Plus, some of them were cited by Palomino with a different name. I hope you find this page as amusing and revealing as I discovered it to be.

Jael and Sisara (1620). It is also a self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi.


El Museo Pictórico y Escala Óptica
El Parnaso español, pintoresco y laureado
(Volume 3)

There have always been examples of world class women. Sofonisba Cremonense (Palomino is referring to Sofonisba Anguissola) painted a portrait of Her Serene Highness the Queen María Luisa de Borbón, first wife to the Charles II, in the presence of the very same Charles II. A lady in waiting –Sofonisba– that was an excellent painter for the Queen of Spain Isabel, wife of King Philip II, and so were her three sisters Ana, Europa and Lucía. Needless to say that being a lady in waiting Sofonisba belonged to the great house of Anguísiola in Faença. And there was another Sicilian lady in waiting in this Court in times of Philip IV that made excellent small sized portraits: Her Excellency Teresa Sarmiento, Duchess of Bejar; she paints wonderfully and not long ago I asked her to show me the Head of Our Lady Auxiliadora, as they say in Valencia, beautifully made in Crystal by her hand. Her Excellency Maria de Guadalupe Duquesa de Abeyro did not waste her talent and to her command of the written word and her knowledge of foreign languages we must add her excellent talent for painting.

Also the Honorable Countess of Villaumbrosa painted with great skill and care. Mariana de la Cueva Benavides y Barradas wife of Francisco de Zayas knight of Calatrava and sister to three knights of the same order was an excellent painter in Granada. One case stands out from all the others and that is that of our Serene Highness Isabel Farnesio, wife of our Excellency the Catholic King, whose outstanding painting skills compete with the talents and graces gathered in her Royal Persona constituting her not only worthy of the King but of her subjects’ heart too.

Mariëta Tintoreta (Palomino means Marietta Robusti), daughter of the famous Jacobo Tintoreto, was an excellent painter and her work was highly deemed by all the Princes of Europe. Also Margarita de Enzina, sister of Juan de Enzina known as Juan de Brujas (Palomino means Jan van Eyck) the one who developed the oil on canvas technique, was an excellent painter. Propercia Boloñesa (Palomino means Properzia de’ Rossi who made sculptures out of peaches seeds) was an excellent painter and sculptor. Then there is Plautila Abadesa (he means the Florentine painter Plautilla Nelli) and Lucrecia Quistellia Mirandulana (he means Lucrezia Quistelli della Mirandola) and Arthemisa Genttileschi (considered by some scholars the first feminist painter) all of them excellent Italian painters and Lavinia Fontana, daughter of Prospero Fontanta a painter famous in Bolonia, was also an excellent painter and such was her talent that we find at the El Escorial a painting of the Virgin Mary and the Son resting upon some pillows with Saint John and Saint Joseph in the back and the Virgin Mary is lifting the veil so that the Son is seen; in any case her painting is highly deemed in Italy.

Excellent painters were also Propercia de Rossi, daughter of the knight Maximo, and Teresa del Pò daughter of Pedro del Pò Roman painter. Our beloved Alonso Sánchez had also a daughter who was an excellent painter, also Mariana Duarte sister of Francisco Duarte president of the Casa de Contratación. These days Madama le Hay is very famous for her excellent painting although she is also well versed as poet, musician and engraver for she made the book published the year 1706 of which we will speak later on.

Susana Maria painter in Augusta and daughter of the painter Juan Fischero. Ana Maria Schermania (Palomino means Anna Maria van Schurman) was quite and erudite mind and a gifted painter. Ana Felicitas de Neuburg was an excellent painter. Also excellent painters were Maria Sybilá Gravia Francofortenfe (Palomino means Maria Sibylla Merian) and Susana de Sandrart Norimbergense (Palomino means Susanne Maria von Sandrart).


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