Lavender Took (lavendertook) wrote,
Lavender Took

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Grrl Gamers of 16th Century Italy--GIP

Sunday I went down to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC to catch an exhibit of Italian women artists of early modern Italy, which was closing. And what should be there but my favorite painting in the WHOLE WORLD (let me show u it), The Chess Game (1555) by Sofonisba Anguissola, which you can see in my icon. I first saw it several years ago in an exhibit there, and I didn't think they'd have it back again so soon and didn't expect to see it at this exhibit, but it was like seeing an old friend. Made me so happy!

As above, I call this painting Grrl Gamers of 16thC Italy and there's so much that I love about this painting. First of all, it features 3 of the artist's sisters enjoying themselves at competitive play. And this is what Renaissance ladylike behavior looks like, yo. Big sis, who made a move full of win just looks so amusingly self-satisfied with herself, and younger sis's face is so full of dismayed consternation, and little sis is just gleefully gloating away for her big sis. And the old woman to the side is looking on with discerning interest (I saw one description call her look--he decided she was a nurse--as uncomprehending--which just told me that critic was a classist bastard)--such a wonderful face. And I love the background so much--the view down from the terrace and across the river. I've always loved that technique of the fade out background, but I find the one in this painting to be particularly beautiful. When you stand close the brush strokes on this part of the painting reveal less coherence than when you back up--I love how it conjures so much more than is there. The only part of this painting I don't like is the lack of perspective of younger sis's raised hand, which should be smaller by standards of realism. But the way the table and chessboard is not quite to perspective just adds more life and movement to me, so there the lack of perspective improves on realism, just as it is calculated to give us a better view of the chess board.

They had 4 of Anguissola's self portraits at the exhibit. There was the one I linked above with her at her easel, one with her holding a book, and one of her at a spinet (keyboard). She painted her eyes an even more vibrant grey in that one, and her expression is even more intense--I definitely favor that one. Then she had a really interesting one that depicted her instructor working on a painting of her--so the portrait of herself was her interpretation of her instructor's painting of her. I thought it was interesting that it was the only one of the four that had her in bright finery--she painted herself in the other 3 in austere black and brown fitted dress with high tight colors. In her instructors painting--the mediated version of her--she had on a red velvet and brocade gown with a wide collar and ruff and jewels. They also had the sketch she drew that Michelangelo commended.

There were paintings from 17 women of early modern Italy in all, including many by Artemisia Gentileschi and Lavinia Fontana. A really fine exhibit. I wish I had gotten to it sooner--if I had known The Chess Game would be there, I would have, but I'm just glad I was able to catch it before it left altogether.

The funny thing is, I just found reproductions of The Chess Game online a couple of weeks ago and had made this icon of the painting 2 days before I went to the exhibit and had made it my default the night before. So I'm having a little Sofonisba Anguissola festival here--thought I'd share. (-:
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