Modern day historians regard Elisabetta Catanea Parasole as one of the most important lace designers of the Italian Renaissance. She was highly influential in the field for her work designing patterns and publishing guides. Although little is known about Parasole's early life (it is believed that she was born around 1565), it is known that after her marriage she lived and worked in Rome. Leonardo Norsini, also a wood engraver, took his wife's name after marriage due to the greater fame Parasole had as an artist. The two collaborated on prints and publications and it is believed that she received some of her training from him. Parasole's first known engraving, Hervario Novo
(1585), that she collaborated on with her husband, was a herbal for Castor Durante (1529-1590). The engraver was well known for her designs by 1600.
She was also the first lace designer to create and publish an instruction manual for upper class women from a woman's perspective. Although embroidery guilds were dominated by men, men were rarely mentioned in the guides themselves with the majority of dedications and references being made to prominent women in society. Such dedications were a prime way for artists to give public thanks to a patron and to advertise her or his skill and connections. There are six known lace pattern books for which Parasole designed and cut patterns. Her woodcarvings were unique for her time period in that Parasole used a dark background for the designs. This was created by carving the lace design into the wood block rather than carving away everything but the lace. The overall effect was that the white lines of the lace against the dark background mirrored the delicate appearance of the actual fabric. There were also practical reasons for Parasole's carving technique. This process saved on labor time and increased the longevity of the wood block.
While in Rome, the couple lived in close proximity to the Trevi Fountain and in the same neighborhood as Antonio Facchetti, one of her publishers. Elisabetta and Leonardo had two sons, Agostino, who became a lawyer, and Bernardino, who became an artist like his parents. The biographer Giovanni Baglione, (1566-1643), records in his Le Vite de Pittori
(1642), that she died in 1625, and it is estimated that she was at least sixty at her death.
wife and student of Leonardo Parasole
mother of Bernardino Parasole
friend of Francesco Villamena
collaborated with Antonio Facchetti