The Italian Mannerist painter, Fede Galizia, was first noted for her artistic achievement by the Italian historian and painter, Giovanni P. Lomazzo, when she was twelve years old. Like many other women artists of this time period, Galizia’s father, the miniaturist Annunzio Galizia, was an established artist and it is presumed that he taught his daughter how to paint. It is this early training in the art of miniatures and the level of detail the genre requires that provides the basis for Galizia’s career as an artist. Although Galizia began her successful career by painting portraits, her body of work also includes illustrations, landscapes, religious subjects, still-lifes, as well as several commissions for altarpieces in Milanese churches. Little is known about Galizia’s personal life despite her enduring importance as a pioneer of Italian still-life.
Objects are treated monumentally in her still-lifes; the carefully rendered fruit dominates the shallow field of each composition. The attention to detail that exists in her portraits can also be seen in still-life through the careful treatment of light, reflection, and texture. Although the occasional inclusion of an insect instills her paintings with Vanitas
overtones, the element of decay that is present in the still-lifes of her contemporaries is not to be found in Galizia’s work. Her paintings are characteristically austere and simple. The simplicity of her compositions disguises the careful balancing of forms and the aforementioned attention to detail.
Galizia’s portraits, especially her early works, display an adherence to truth that is analytic in nature. In Galizia’s figures each wrinkle is present and each strand of hair is carefully articulated. Of particular note is the Portrait of Paulo Morigia
(1596; Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan, Italy), painted when the artist was only eighteen. While each detail of the figure is painted in analytic detail, there is also a strong sense of psychology or character to the figure. Galizia employs the concept of mimesis, or imitation of reality, in the depiction of Morigia’s glasses. In the glass lenses the artist has painted the reflection of the room Morigia is sitting in, and thus heightening the illusion of reality. Through this portrait and others, Galizia earned international fame during her lifetime. Galizia never married and lived a happy and successful life in Milan as an artist. It is believed that when she died at the age of fifty-two it was due to the plague that was spreading through Italy at that time.
daughter and student of Annunzio Galizia
influenced by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
influenced Panfilo Nuvolone
influenced Giovanna Garzoni