Angelica Kauffmann painted her “auto-biographical” self-portrait called The Artist Hesitating between the Arts of Music and Painting while in Rome in 1794. The torn Angelica was encouraged to abandon her painting to pursue a career in music, a traditionally female environment. She ultimately chose to continue as a visual artist and set off for “the temple on the mountaintop” with a bit of encouragement from the Allegory of Painting.
Musical talent aside, Kauffmann’s keen interest in music was not uncommon. The upcoming exhibition Early Women Artists and Musicians, opening on March 8 at Ponte a Ema’s Oratorio di Santa Caterina delle Ruote as a partnership show between the Uffizi and the Municipality of Bagno a Ripoli, has spurred me to reflect on the fact that many female painters did indeed want music to be perceived as a crucial part of their creative identity. Artemisia Gentileschi, for example, took up a lute and painted herself as Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music, and later invited her younger colleague Arcangela Paladini to model as the saint for another of her works.