The Baroque painter, Chiara Varotari, was born in Padua, Italy in 1584 to an established family of artisans. She learned how to paint from her father, Dario Varotari (The Elder), and her younger brother, Alessandro Varotari (also known as Il Padovanino). Varotari has been described as being devoted to her brother, serving as his assistant and following him to various Italian cities. Some sources state that she refused to marry in order to continue her work with him. However, Varotari’s devotion to her brother did not prevent her from pursuing her own interests and artistic career. She is equally notable for her written works and the steps that she took to promote her own paintings. As an author, Varotari was an advocate for women’s rights and wrote a treatise entitled Apology for the Female Sex
. As an artist, she possessed the initiative to send her self-portrait to the Grand-ducal collection at the Uffizi. Varotari also had the distinction of being honored for her skills as a nurse.
In 1614, Varotari’s father died and she moved to Venice with her brother. Although she would follow her brother as he moved throughout Italy, she maintained connections in Venice and is credited with founding a school for the arts there in 1625. This school revolved around Alessandro’s talent and fame as an artist, and became a center of culture and creativity. It is known that artists such as Caterina Tarabotti and Lucia Scaligeri studied there. The school also attracted the artists Girolamo Forabosco, Pietro della Vecchia, and Giulio Carpioni. During her career, Varotari worked as a professional portraitist and was respected for her skill during her lifetime. Her portraits are characterized by the attention to detail given to the subject’s clothing and jewelry, with relatively little emphasis on the psychology of the subject. This contrasts with Varotari’s own self-portrait, in which a high level of psychology is present. The exact date of her death is unknown. However, she is listed as still living in 1663 in the appendix Giustiniano Martinioni wrote for Francesco Sansovino’s Venetia città nobilissima
sister, student, and assistant of Alessandro Varotari
daughter and student of Dario Varotari (The Elder)
aunt of Dario Varotari (The Younger)