Endeavors: Bold Strokes


MIDWAY BETWEEN VENICE AND FLORENCE, THE ITALIAN CITY OF BOLOGNA is known for meaty pasta sauce and a vibrant cultural scene.

In Women Artists, Their Patrons and Their Publics in Early Modern Bologna (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2021), Babette Bohn writes that Bologna should also be famous for incubating female artists.

Bohn, a retired professor of art history, devoted years to studying female artists who worked in the city from the 15th to 18th centuries.

In November 2021, Bohn presented her findings during the Sydney J. Freedberg Lecture on Italian Art at the National Gallery of Art. Her talk was the first in the series’ 25-year history to focus on female artists.

In her book, Bohn writes that “women artists were more successful in Bologna than in any other Italian city because they were celebrated by early Bolognese writers.”

These writers “saw local women artists as a key component of Bologna’s cultural identity, distinguishing their home as a city with unique claims to women’s excellence in the visual arts.”

Bologna’s barrier-breaking female artists earned acclaim as painters, sculptors, printmakers and more.

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