Born Giustina Fetti, the Mannerist painter took the name Suor Lucrina Fetti upon taking her vows on December 3rd, 1614 at the Franciscan Convent of Sant’Orsola of Mantua. Based upon this date, it is estimated that she was born around 1590. She spent her childhood in Rome, Italy and learned how to paint from her brother, Domenico Fetti, whom she served as assistant. Lucrina’s father, Pietro Fetti was also a painter.
In 1614, Domenico was invited to Mantua to paint for the Duke Ferdinando Gonzaga. Lucrina moved with him to Mantua, and, once there, the Duke provided Lucrina’s dowry for entry into Sant’Orsola. Arrangements where the dowry for entry into a convent would be waived or paid for by another party were common if the woman showed promise as an artist or had a relative who was a well-known artist. Not only could a woman artist bring money into the convent through her work, but there was also the implication that she would beautify the convent itself with her paintings. During her life as a nun, Fetti actively worked in her brother’s studio and painted portraits of women in the Gonzaga family as well as religious works for the convent. Although many of the religious paintings in Sant’Orsola had previously been attributed to Domenico, modern restoration has revealed Fetti’s signature.
Because Fetti would not have had access to the same type of opportunities as her brother to study the human form, her paintings (and especially her portraits) display an emphasis on what she would have been able to study from daily life. Her portraits are strongest in the detailed emphasis given to clothing. While her subjects’ faces are true to life, she tends not to depict the psychology of her sitters. The biographer Filippo Balducinni noted in Notizie de’ professori del disegno da Cimabue in qua
(1681-1728), that she was active as a painter until her death around 1650. At Fetti’s funeral, the oration was read by Giovanni Alessandro Martinelli, who also spoke at the funeral of Domenico and some of the Dukes of Mantua, highlighting the respect the Gonzaga family had for Lucrina.
daughter of Pietro Fetti
sister, assistant, and student of Domenico Fetti
sister of Vicenzo Fetti