A Space of Their Own, a New Online Database, Will Feature Works by 600+ Overlooked Female Artists from the 15th-19th Centuries

Many of the works we found—well, nobody knew they were there. Nobody knew anything about the artists. … They weren’t important, but rather beholden to their fathers, mothers, and husbands. They had no voice.   

– Jane Fortune, Founder of Advancing Women Artists (AWA)

The paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures the late Jane Fortune refers to above were discovered in museum storage spaces throughout Florence.

Many of their female creators were acclaimed during their lifetimes. By the time Fortune set about restoring their work—and visibility —to the public view, they were virtually unknown, even to museum staff.

Saint Catherine with Lily by Plautilla Nelli

That may change as early as the fall of 2019, when A Space of Their Own, an illustrated online database of over 600 female artists working in the US and Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries, launches.

In preparation for their reintroduction, many of the works appearing on A Space of Their Own have undergone extensive restoration, courtesy of Jane Fortune’s nonprofit Advancing Women Artists.

David and Bathsheba by Artemisia Gentileschi

Interestingly, women make up the majority of art restorers in Florence. This professional dominance can be traced back to the mid-60s, when a catastrophic flood laid waste to millions of the city’s art treasures. “It was the first time women began wearing trousers in Florence,” Linda Falcone, AWA’s current director told artnet. “Women’s liberation in Florence is deeply linked to the art restoration effort.”

Many of the artists in the database were self-taught, barred from seeking formal training or studying anatomy on account of their gender. They could not hope to make a living from their talents when women were forbidden from issuing invoices. And then, of course, there are the demands of marriage and motherhood.

Small wonder they have been so underrepresented in museums and art history books.

Self-portrait by Leonetta Pieraccini Cecchi

Peruse a menu of paintings in need of restoration sponsorship and learn more about the artists on AWA’s website. Sign up for the newsletter for updates in advance of A Space of Their Own’s grand opening.

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 12 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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  • TOP 3 Shortener URL says:

    This post is nice, and awesome explaination.
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  • Brandy Devoid says:

    Hey I was wondering how i could get my art linked to your sight? A friend just refered me to you.

  • Sharon Jackson says:

    This is absolutely marvelous. The self portrait of Leonetta Pieraccini Cecchi is particularly beautiful. And to think she had no training! That is astonishing. I can hardly wait until these are all on line. Thanks for this.

  • Taniya says:

    I think this is a great resource for artists especially inspiring for women artists.

  • Kate Griffin says:


  • Theresa Lynn Ast says:

    Amazing! Glorious! Wonderful! Many thanks. :)

  • Christine says:

    Is there any plan to eventually include works by women artists from other regions of the world? Surely, women from Africa, Asia, South America, Mexico, etc have been artists as well?

  • Ellen Dreibelbis says:

    What a wonderful site! Does one have to be dead to be on this website? It’s a little hard on the artist.

  • David says:

    Yes suicide is required if you’re still alive and want your work included now.

  • Mary Redenius says:

    I’m just delighted that a friend posted this to me. What an extraordinary undertaking and website!

  • Gailseckler says:

    Nancy. How very interesting!

  • Joan Giard says:

    This is awesome! Thank you!

  • Kris Coty says:

    Thank you for opening my eyes even more. I looked into Fresco Art school to learn reconditioning years ago…went to Chef school, Le Cordon Bleu instead.
    Dream would still be to recondition in Italy, esp. now, “women created Frescos…

  • Adalberto di Spilimbergo says:

    avete considerato l’opportunità di esaminare l’opera della pittrice dei primi del ‘500 Irene di SPILIMBERGO ( mia lontana antenata), allieva del Tiziano, della quale è presente un ritratto alla National Gallery di Washington? Le sue opere sono pochissime, dato che morì a soli 21 anni, ma la sua fama ancora rimane nella sua terra d’origine, il Friuli. A Spilimbergo, città sul Tagliamento in privincia di Pordenone, c’è una scuola (famosa) di mosaico a lei
    intestata. Cordiali saluti Adalberto di Spilimbergo


    Thanks for launching this project. It is a well of knowledge that will yield materials on women’s painters practically unknown. As a researcher of women artists I welcome this initiative with open arms.


  • BG Dodson says:

    A friend of mine has been writing articles regarding over-looked female artists of the past. Her work is at http://trans-ddigitalart.blogspot.com/

  • Rebecca Tallman says:

    After scrolling down the entire list under “categories”, I am very disappointed to see that “Women” is not listed. I hope you will rectify this in the near future.

  • E says:

    Gosh, I thought entry fees were bad enough!

  • Grace says:

    You have to be dead. And also have lived during the 15th—19th centuries

  • Meghan says:

    Wow, they get their own space because, apparently, they still aren’t good enough to be featured with the male artists. Um… thanks?

  • Jackie Peterson says:

    I am an artist woman can my name be included on the list?

    Thanking you

  • Christa Zaat says:

    This article is of 9 November 2018. We are nearly 8 months further. Where is this database? Is there a link?

  • Rosann says:

    I too would like to see the data base.
    I’d also like to buy prints of these works—could that be a financial support?

  • Lesley says:

    I would love to be informed when the data base is up and running.
    Thank you

  • bergljot kjartansdottir says:

    Yes, indeed, I would love to be informed when the data base is up and running. This is a hugely important initiative.

    When back in the early eightiees I was teaching art I wanted to gather as much information about female artists through the centuries as possible. I got a lot out of looking into this whole a little forgetten area my self but others wern´t that much interested… women and art wasn´t really the trend at the time….things do change fortunately.

    Again, I very much welcome your efforts.

    Thank you

  • Tracey Collins says:

    This is very exciting, and also very timely. I am interested to know more about how it is progressing.
    Thanks much Tracey

  • Mimi says:

    Of course. One requirement – you have to prove you lived between 15th and 19th century.

  • Laurie Leonard says:

    I love the article on the Womyn artists and restring their work. It would be wonderful to have them all in one space.
    I do have to comment that I disliked the music that played with the video awful! It too bouncy and bright. I didn’t find it supporting the film at all.

  • Bob says:

    This is fantastic.

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