Giovanni Garzoni (1600-1670)

giovanna-garzoni-self-portraitGiovanna Garzoni was an Italian painter who was prominent in Europe during the Baroque period. Garzoni started her career painting religious, mythological, and allegorical subjects but became famous for her works with tempura and watercolour of botanical subjects. 

The artist rose to prominence due to her precision and balance with space and realism of her subjects.  Garzoni was often called the Chaste Giovanna due to her vow to remain a virgin.  Garzoni was also notable for being one of the few women who opted to travel throughout Europe and receive an education during the 17th century instead of settling down and starting a family. Scholars have speculated Garzoni may have been influenced by fellow botanical painter Jacopo Ligozzi although details about Garzoni’s training are widely unknown.

Giovanna Garzoni was born in 1600 in Ascoli Piceno in the Marche district of Italy to Giacomo Garzoni and Isabetta Gaia.  Both of Garzoni’s parents were of Venetian origin and are believed to have come from a long line of Venetian painters but this item is often disputed.  Historians have widely speculated that Garzoni started off her career as an apprentice under her uncle sometime before 1615.  Garzoni also had a brother, Mattio whom she would travel with throughout her career as an artist.

In 1630 Garzoni along with her brother Mattio, left Venice for Naples where she worked for the Spanish viceroy. Garzoni remained in Naples for one year until she moved to Rome in 1631. Garzoni’s stay in Rome was short lived and reached Turin in 1632 and lived there until 1637. A few years later in 1640, Garzoni arrived in Paris and stayed there until 1642 when she went to Rome. Garzoni travelled back and forth from Rome to Florence until 1651 where her client was the prominent Medici Family.  After serving the Medici Court, Garzoni decided to settle in Rome in 1651 where she worked for the Florentine Court.  

It is believed by historians that Garzoni never married but several others have claimed the artist was once married to Venetian portrait painter Tiberio Tinelli in 1622.  However the marriage was short lived due to Garzoni’s vow of chastity and as a result Tinelli and Garzoni separated in 1624. Garzoni’s marriage to Tinelli was ended by annulment rather than divorce because they two never consummated their marriage.

Garzoni died in Rome in February of 1670 at the age of 70. Today, Garzoni’s tomb remains at the Church of Santa Martina.

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