Jennifer Dasal


Breaking Barriers: Women Artists of Renaissance Europe

by Jennifer Dasal


Learn at your own pace


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Breaking Barriers: Women Artists of Renaissance Europe

by Jennifer Dasal

What you'll learn


Discover 20 women artists from the Renaissance period


Explore the outstanding talent forgotten by history


Enjoy inspiration tales of trailblazing women


Understand the barriers to female education during this time period


Learn the defining characteristics of renaissance art


No doubt you are familiar with Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo — and not just as mutant reptiles with rad martial arts skills, wink wink. You know these artists as some of the biggest names in Renaissance art who created some of the most iconic works of art of all time. Looking closer, though, and you’ll find another commonality: they are all male artists.

What about the great female makers of the Renaissance - where, and who, are they?

Join Jennifer Dasal, podcaster, art historian, and author of "ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History" (Penguin Books, 2020), in a 20-day course — and a course correction — exploring 20 women artists from Renaissance Europe.

From Sofonisba Anguissola and Marietta Robusti to lesser-known artists like Plautilla Nelli and Levina Teerlinc, this course will lead you through the lives and careers of groundbreaking women who’ve made their marks on art history.

Course structure


Welcome to the Renaissance: An Introduction

Today we're setting the stage for our three-week journey into the Renaissance: what, exactly, was the Renaissance, when was it, and where was it localized in Europe? We'll also briefly discuss the place of women in Renaissance Europe, especially their place (or lack thereof) in the visual arts.


Sofonisba Anguissola: Defining the Renaissance Woman

In this episode, we’re starting our series with a biggie: Sofonisba Anguissola, a painter so lauded that even Michelangelo (yes, THAT Michelangelo) was suitably impressed. What made Sofonisba so successful, and what makes her important today?


Lucia Anguissola (and Elena Anguissola): In Their Sister’s Footsteps

Sofonisba wasn’t the only painter in the Anguissola family, nor the only successful one. Today, we’re expanding our look at this impressive Italian family and spotlighting Sofonisba’s sisters, Lucia and Elena.


Lavinia Fontana: The “First Woman Artist”

She conquered Bologna and Rome, and counted the Pope as one of her loyal sitters. And some art historians believe that she was the first known female artist to represent the female nude in art. It turns out that Lavinia Fontana was--and still is--a pretty big deal.


Esther Inglis: Under the Prince’s Patronage

Inglis found success as a creator of manuscripts and illustrated books for the British Royal Family, particularly under the patronage of Prince Henry Frederick of Wales. And yet some have questioned whether Inglis felt hemmed in by her gender--and that she opted to express her feelings via illustrations of flowers. Do Esther Inglis’s blooms signify something special?


Marietta Robusti: Like Father, Like Daughter

Lots of women artists have gotten a head-start in their careers thanks to their families. Fathers, in particular, often led their remarkable daughters to find great success in the arts, and Marietta Robusti was no exception: her dear old dad was none other than Tintoretto, a Venetian master. But did Tintoretto’s adoration of his daughter hold her back from achieving greater heights?


Levina Teerlinc: Tiny Tudor Treasures

Finding a signed, confirmed work by Levina Teerlinc isn’t an easy task, as we know of no surviving works with her signature. But we do know that Levina Teerlinc was almost single-handedly responsible for the popularization of the miniature portrait, and obviously she was good at it: Queen Elizabeth I commissioned her portrait from Teerlinc no less than eight times.


Fede Galizia: Early Still-Life Adopter

She might not have had the backing of royal patrons or the fancy aristocratic connections that Levina Teerlinc and Sofonisba Anguissola had, but Fede Galizia still did well for herself with commissions. And she was an innovator, to boot, often noted as the first-known Italian artist to have completed a still life painting at a time where the genre was not yet fashionable.


Caterina van Hemessen: An Innovator in Flanders

Another day of firsts! Meet Caterina van Hemessen, the earliest-known female artists at work in Flanders (modern-day Belgium). And she, like many of the women we’ve discussed so far in this course, may have been an innovator: the creator of the first self-portrait as an artist seated at his/her easel.


Barbara Longhi: Ravenna’s Favorite Daughter

Barbara Longhi came from a family of artists, like many other women of the Renaissance-- but she became well-known during her time as a premier portraitist. Yet she is little-remembered today-- so we are going to rectify the situation and celebrate Longhi today, as her contemporaries (including Giorgio Vasari) once did.


Mariangiola Criscuolo: Dad's Assistant

Far more is known about Mariangiola’s father, the painter Giovanni Filippo Crisculo. And yet one wonders if Papa Crisculo was greatly assisted by his daughter, also an accomplished painter. Today we acknowledge the many women, mostly lost through time, who contributed to their family’s incomes through their hard work in the visual arts.


St. Catherine of Bologna: The Patron Saint of Artists

Artist-nuns are not rare: just look at the example of the famed Hildegard von Bingen, long praised as one of the first-known female artists. Today, we’re uncovering the story--and the myth--behind St. Catherine of Bologna, a mystical member of the Poor Clares whose artistic talents may (or not!) have been exaggerated.


Properzia de’ Rossi: The “Rare Female Sculptor

Today’s subject is a major one: Properzia de’ Rossi, a Renaissance sculptor who was (gasp!) female. Why was this a big deal, why was de’ Rossi a rarity? We dig into the details and learn about the highly masculinized world of sculpture.


Diana Scultori (Diani Ghisi): With Papal Privilege

One of the earliest-known female printmakers in Europe, Diana Scultori (sometimes identified as Diana Ghisi or Diana Mantuana), Diana was a grand marketer of her own work, even requesting a particular “Papal Privilege” to sell and promote her engravings while living in Rome. Rock on, Diana!


Anastasia: “Finest Artisan in Paris”

A mysterious figure known only to us as “Anastasia” is one of the earliest artists we’re discovering in our course--and it was only through the work of another incredible woman, the medieval poet and author Christine de Pisan, that we know of her, the so-called “finest artisan in Paris.”


Maria Ormani: The First Female Self-Portraitist

We discussed Caterina van Hemessen’s innovations as the first artist to paint their self-portrait at the easel--and today, we’re learning about Maria Ormani, the creator of the first signed and dated self-portrait of the Italian Renaissance. While this may not seem like a big deal, it truly is-- and we’ll discuss why her signature and dating of her works--and the artist herself--matters.


Susannah Hornebolt: A Lady “Much Patronised by Henry the Eighth”

Levina Teerlinc gets a lot of the attention as a major portraitist of Renaissance England-- but Susannah Hornebolt did it first. Hired by various women of the Tudor Dynasty--and perhaps even directly by Henry VIII himself-- Hornebolt was so well-received during her lifetime that even Albrecht Dürer--a Northern Renaissance master himself!--collected one of her works.


Plautilla Nelli: Lost and Found

Another day, another nun! But Plautilla Nelli’s story is an interesting one, involving a great lost-and-found twist, and the opportunity to discuss how some artists can be “forgotten” and then rediscovered.


Irene di Spilimbergo: Poems and Painting

Though predominantly remembered today as a poet, Irene di Spilimbergo was also a painter of some renown during her very short life. She passed away at age 21, but already studied with Titian for two years during that time, and she was often compared favorably to Sofonisba Anguissola. How much more amazing would Irene have been, if she had lived a longer life?


Giovanna Garzoni: Botanical Bravura

Okay, okay, I’m cheating a bit here. For our last two sessions, we’re bridging the gap between the Renaissance and the Baroque periods, focusing especially on Giovanna Garzoni’s exquisite botanicals and still-lifes. Also-- we’ll touch on some of the differences between the Italian Renaissance and Italian Baroque art.


Elisabetta Sirani: Pioneering Womens’ Art Education

We’re ending our course today with a profile of Elisabetta Sirani, who was not only a fantastic artist, but also a pioneer for arts education for women, establishing her own academy and taking on pupils, all before her untimely death at age 27.

What people say


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Publisher's Weekly

Both art aficionados and novices will find something to appreciate in this offbe...

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Dasal curates a collection of stories that would enliven any art appreciation sy...

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Dasal writes with humor and honesty, offering truth mixed with speculation… Art ...

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Shelf Awareness

Dasal upends assumptions about what readers think they know about art and artist...

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About Jennifer Dasal


Jennifer Dasal is a curator of modern and contemporary art, and the author of 'ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History.' She is also the host of the independent podcast 'ArtCurious,' which she started in 2016 and which was named one of the best podcasts by O, The Oprah Magazine and PC Magazine. She holds an MA in art history from the University of Notre Dame and a BA in art history from the University of California, Davis. She has also completed PhD coursework in art history at Pennsylvania State University. She lectures frequently on art both locally and nationally.

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Learn at your own pace


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Breaking Barriers: Women Artists of Renaissance Europe

by Jennifer Dasal

100% satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t love it for any reason, you can request a refund within 30 days from the course go live date.

© Jennifer Dasal 2023

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