Iaia of Cyzicus (also known as Marcia and Lala) was a painter who worked in Rome during the first century BCE. She was known for her panel paintings and ivory engraving.
Though she found fame at the centre of the Roman Empire, Iaia was born in Cyzicus, Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) which was under Roman rule. The short descriptions of her in antiquity describe a remarkable and independent woman, who chose to remain single and never married.
Historian Pliny wrote; “There was no painter superior to her for expedition; while at the same time her artistic skill was such that her works sold at much higher prices than those of the most celebrated portrait-painters of her day.”
Most of Iaia’s paintings were of women, including a large portrait of an old woman, displayed in Naples. It is also noted that she painted a self-portrait using a mirror to capture her likeness.
Sadly these works have not survived. What remains is the echo of a woman who traveled a great distance and was so skilled in her craft that she worked faster and painted better than her male competitors, becoming independently wealthy.
Natural Histories – Pliny
Women in the Classical World – Elaine Fantham, Helene Peet Foley, Natalie Boymel Kampen, Sarah B. Pomeroy, H. A. Shapiro
Reader in the History of Books and Printing – By Paul A. Winckler
“Salon des Nobles-LALA DE CYZIQUE CULTIVANT LA PEINTURE” by CORNEILLE, Michel (1642-1708) – RMN.
Licensed under Public Domain via Commons