The struggles and achievements of forty-six notable women artists of the early modern period, as documented by their contemporaries, are uniquely brought together in this anthology. The life stories presented here are foundational texts for the history of art, but since most are found only in rare volumes and few have been translated into English, until now they have been generally inaccessible to many scholars. Originally published in biographical compendia such as Vasari's Lives of the Artists, the writings included here document not only the lives of relatively well known women artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi and Sofonisba Anguissola, but also those who have languished in obscurity, like Anna Waser and Li Yin. Each life story is preceded by a brief introduction to the artist as well as to her biographer, and the texts themselves are annotated to provide necessary clarification. Beyond their documentary value, these stories provide fascinating insight as to how men commonly characterized women artists as exceptions to their sex, and attempted to explain their presence in the male-dominated realm of art. The introductory chapter to the book explores this intriguing gender dynamic and elucidates some of the strategies and historical context that factored into the composition of these lives. The volume includes an appended index to women artists' life stories in biographical compendia of the period
'This publication makes usefully accessible a range of writing from Pliny to Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Lebrun about women as art makers.' Helen Hills, University of York, UK
’Since most of the artists have not appeared in previous publications, this anthology will make a good addition to any library reference section dealing with art history. However, because of the extensive comments and footnotes, scholars interested in tracing the changing or unchanging history of the role of women in society as a whole will also gain from this anthology. There is an extensive appendix, bibliography and index.’ Art Libraries Society of North America
'… a wonderful collection… The biographies included here are foundation texts for art history, yet the vast majority have, until now, only to be found in rare, difficult-to-find volumes, and precious few had been translated into English. It is only through Dabbs' scholarship that this inaccessibility has, thankfully, been addressed… what is particularly special about this book is that not only does it present biographies of well-known women artists such as Artemesia Gentileschi and Lavinia Fontana, but it also reclaims the more obscure names from history… What Dabbs' publication does so well is to tell the fascinating stories of women artists from the early modern period and, in so doing, she reminds us of the challenges that women faced then and now. It is a timely reminder, and excellent piece of scholarship, and it does its job brilliantly.' The Art Book
Contents: Introduction: reader’s guide to the anthology: purpose and scope; Interpreting the life stories of early modern women artists; The forerunners: life stories of ancient and medieval women artists; The life stories of early modern women artists (1550-1800); Appendix; Bibliography; Index.