Like her predecessor, Timarete, Anaxandra learned the art of painting from her father and also worked as his assistant, crushing dyes to mix his paints.
We know that Anaxandra’s father, Nealkes, painted scenes from mythology and that his daughter learned his trade – but apart from these few snatches of information, we know nothing.
Nonetheless, the thought of a female artist clearly captured the imaginations of many historians. She is mentioned by Clement of Alexandria 400 years after her death, in a section of his book entitled “Women as Well as Men Capable of Perfection“. Clement cites a lost work of the Hellenistic scholar Didymus Chalcenterus (1st century BC) as his source.
Anaxandra is used again as an example of female talent in Lucrezia Marinella’s 16th Century feminist argument: The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the Defects and Vices of Men.
Her name was given by the International Astronomical Union in 1994 to a large 20 km diameter crater on Venus to commemorate the artist.
Women Artists in All Ages and Countries – Elizabeth Fries Ellet
The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the defects and Vices of Men – Lucrezia Marinella, Anne Dunhill
“She scorned the duties of women and practiced her father’s art…”
Timarete is the first woman painter in recorded history. We know very little about her life, other than a short note about her from Pliny, a later Greek historian.
She was likely born in Athens, the centre of the Greek empire. Her father, Micon the Younger, was a painter and sculptor who was celebrated for his work on the Stoa poikile in Athens. It was extremely rare for Athenian women to take up a trade, and Pliny mentions only six female artists in his Natural History.
Timarete was best known for her panel painting of Diana, goddess of the hunt. Greeks considered panel painting to be the highest form of art – above sculpture or pottery.
Timarete would have painted with wax and tempera, creating portraits and still-lifes. The wooden panels were mobile and often displayed publicly in the first known art exhibitions.
Sadly, there is no Greek panel painting surviving today, due to the perishable nature of wood and other materials used. It is known that Timarete’s portrait of Diana was well loved and on display in Ephesus for many years.
- Stoa Poikile – Painted Porch. This monument would later be the birthplace of the philosophical school of Stoicism.
The Natural History – Pliny the Elder