Eirene – 1st Century BCE – Greece

Ancient Greece

Eirene

Eirene (sometimes Irene) was an artist who lived in Greece during the 1st century BCE. Like Timarete and Anaxandra before her, Eirene was the daughter of an artist, and became a pupil to her father, Cratinus.

Though none of her work survives, Eirene was famous for a painting of a girl which was on display in Eleusis. Pliny writes that she also painted an image of the mythological nymph Calypso, who kept the hero Odysseus on her island for years.

In addition to these works, Eirene apparently also painted portraits of celebrities of the day – a portrait of the gladiator (in some translations ‘juggler’) Theodorus, and another of a dancer called Alcisthenes are credited to her.


References:

Naturalis historia, XXXV.40.140, 147. – Pliny the Elder

Famous Women – Giovanni Boccaccio, Virginia Brown

On Wikipedia:

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Iaia – c.116 – 27 BCE – Cyzicus, Mysia

Ancient Rome

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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.

Michel Corneille the Younger, Lala from Cyzicus painting, Palace of Versailles, 1672

Michel Corneille the Younger, Lala from Cyzicus painting, Palace of Versailles, 1672

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.


References:

Natural HistoriesPliny

Women in the Classical WorldElaine 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

On Wikipedia:


Image credits:

Salon des Nobles-LALA DE CYZIQUE CULTIVANT LA PEINTURE” by CORNEILLE, Michel (1642-1708) – RMN.

Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Anaxandra – fl. 220s BCE – Greece

Ancient Greece

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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.


References:

Women Artists in All Ages and Countries – Elizabeth Fries Ellet

The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the defects and Vices of MenLucrezia Marinella, Anne Dunhill

On Wikipedia:

Timarete – 5th Century BCE – Athens, Greece

Ancient Greece

“She scorned the duties of women and practiced her father’s art…”

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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.


Notes:

  • Stoa Poikile – Painted Porch. This monument would later be the birthplace of the philosophical school of Stoicism.

References:

The Natural HistoryPliny the Elder

Wikipedia: