The Garzoni challenge: make art today
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The Garzoni challenge: make art today

Sat 07 Mar 2020 10:26 AM

To usher in the Uffizi Galleries’ upcoming exhibition dedicated to the Baroque painter Giovanna Garzoni, Advancing Women Artists (AWA) is launching an appeal to present-day artists and institutions around the world to create original works inspired by Giovanna Garzoni’s rich oeuvre.





In anticipation of International Women’s Day on March 8, as the world prepares to remember and recognize the achievements of women, Advancing Women Artists (AWA), with the support of the Uffizi Galleries and the Medici Archive Project, initiates a worldwide challenge spotlighting female creativity.


It is a call to today’s artists to use the art of Giovanna Garzoni as a springboard to create their own original works. One of the most representative painters of the 17th century, Garzoni will soon be the leading lady of a retrospective exhibition at the Pitti Palace, in Florence, beginning March 10. Cultural and educational institutions from all over the world are invited to take part in this challenge.




Giovanna Garzoni (Ascoli Piceno 1600 – Rome 1670)
Lapdog with Biscotti and a Chinese Cup
circa 1648
Tempera on parchment, 27,5 x 39,5 cm
Signed in the lower right corner: “Giovanna Garzoni F.”
Florence, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina




A woman of her time, Giovanna Garzoni (1600-70) exemplifies the 17th-century interest in scientific details and meticulous realism, but her miniaturist eye focuses on a broader vision. Garzoni’s art brings together the cultures of England, Japan, Mexico, China and much more. In her luminous still life works, shells gathered on distant beaches are combined with precious blooms growing in the jungle. Luscious fruits picked in the front garden are matched with porcelain from the Far East. The artist captures the universe in a painting, immortalizing artefacts from all over the globe whilst continuing to capture local specimens.





How to take part



Giovanna Garzoni (Ascoli Piceno 1600 – Rome 1670)
Chinese Vase with Tulips, Anemones and Jonquils, with a Fig and a Fava Bean
circa 1650–1655
Tempera with traces of black pencil on parchment, 50.6 x 36.2 cm
Florence, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe



Until April 8, artists and institutions interested in participating can register by filling out a simple online form, providing basic information about their Women’s Day event and specifying the medium in which they will produce their original artwork. To participate and gain access to the exhibition trailer, register here.




Participating institutions



Giovanna Garzoni (Ascoli Piceno 1600 – Rome 1670)
Chinese Plate with Artichokes, a Rose and Strawberries
circa 1655–1662
Tempera on parchment, 24.0 x 32.0 cm
Florence, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Galleria Palatina



A growing list of 2020 participants include The Italian Cultural Institute at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC, The Women’s Art Library, part of Goldsmiths University of London’s Special Collections and Archives. University of Dublin Foundation for Italian Studies at the Newman Theatre with UCD Alumni Relations as part of the “BetterforBalance. University of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley School of Art in Edinburg Texas. De La Salle Catholic College in Cronulla, Sydney, Australia. Ludington Area Arts Center in Ludington Michigan, Art History Department at Radboud in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.




Who was Giovanna Garzoni?



Giovanna Garzoni (Ascoli Piceno 1600 – Rome 1670)
Self-portrait as Apollo
circa 1618–1620
Tempera on parchment, laid down on linen, 42 x 33 cm
Signed on the instrument: “Giovanna Garzoni F”
Rome, Segretariato Generale della Repubblica, Palazzo del Quirinale




During Garzoni’s ten years in Florence, where she settled in 1642, the artist’s luminous still life works would enrich the collection of Grand Duke Ferdinando II and Grand Duchess Vittoria della Rovere. The latter would include a selection of Garzoni’s artwork in her chamber of curiosities at Poggio Imperiale. Previously considered inferior to “higher” art forms such as history painting, the still life genre was rapidly gaining popularity, largely thanks to Garzoni’s watercolors and gouaches on vellum or parchment. Her innovative works abandoned the stiffness of symbolic Renaissance flower paintings and reflected the burgeoning tastes of European courts, which sought the marriage of art and science. At a time when flower paintings were sold at markets throughout Europe for the price of a fresh bouquet, Garzoni could ask virtually any sum for her commissioned works, which comprised portraiture as well. Rather than being compensated with jewels and trinkets, like many of her female contemporaries, Garzoni was paid in cash and, by the time of her death, was a wealthy woman. In addition to enjoying extraordinary economic success, she travelled extensively, enjoying more freedom than most women of her age, practicing her profession in Rome, Naples and Turin as well as further afield in France and England. The meticulous records Garzoni kept of her numerous works (another rarity for art by an early woman artist) are kept at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, where she was granted membership in the 1630s.

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