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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Elizabeth Thompson Butler

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While woman has not achieved such brilliant success in art, perhaps, as in literature, many names stand high on the lists. Early history has its noted women: Propersia di Rossi, of Bologna, whose romantic history Mrs. Hemans has immortalized; Elisabetta Sirani, painter, sculptor, and engraver on copper, herself called a "miracle of art," the honored of popes and princes, dying at twenty-six; Marietta Tintoretta, who was invited to be the artist at the courts of emperors and kings, dying at thirty, leaving her father inconsolable; Sophonisba Lomellini, invited by Philip II. of Spain to Madrid, to paint his portrait, and that of the Queen, concerning whom, though blind, Vandyck said he had received more instruction from a blind woman than from all his study of the old masters; and many more.

The first woman artist in England was Susannah Hornebolt, daughter of the principal painter who immediately preceded Hans Holbein, Gerard Hornebolt, a native of Ghent. Albrecht Duerer said of her, in 1521: "She has made a colored drawing of our Saviour, for which I gave her a florin [forty cents]. It is wonderful that a female should be able to do such work." Her brother Luke received a larger salary from King Henry VIII. than he ever gave to Holbein,--$13.87 per month. Susannah married an English sculptor, named Whorstly, and lived many years in great honor and esteem with all the court.

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Arts flourished under Charles I. To Vandyck and Anne Carlisle he gave ultra-marine to the value of twenty-five hundred dollars. Artemisia Gentileschi, from Rome, realized a splendid income from her work; and, although forty-five years old when she came to England, she was greatly admired, and history says made many conquests. This may be possible, as George IV. said a woman never reaches her highest powers of fascination till she is forty. Guido was her instructor, and one of her warmest eulogizers. She was an intimate friend of Domenichino and of Guercino, who gave all his wealth to philanthropies, and when in England was the warm friend of Vandyck. Some of her works are in the Pitti Palace, at Florence, and some at Madrid, in Spain.

Of Maria Varelst, the historical painter, the following story is told: At the theatre she sat next to six German gentlemen of high rank, who were so impressed with her beauty and manner that they expressed great admiration for her among each other. The young lady spoke to them in German, saying that such extravagant praise in the presence of a lady was no real compliment. One of the party immediately repeated what he had said in Latin. She replied in the same tongue "that it was unjust to endeavor to deprive the fair sex of the knowledge of that tongue which was the vehicle of true learning." The gentlemen begged to call upon her. Each sat for his portrait, and she was thus brought into great prominence.

The artist around whose beauty and talent romance adds a special charm, was Angelica Kauffman, the only child of Joseph Kauffman, born near Lake Constance, about 1741. At nine years of age she made wonderful pastel pictures. Removing to Lombardy, it is asserted that her father dressed her in boy's clothing, and smuggled her into the academy, that she might be improved in drawing. At eleven she went to Como, where the charming scenery had a great impression upon the young girl. No one who wishes to grow in taste and art can afford to live away from nature's best work. The Bishop of Como became interested in her, and asked her to paint his portrait. This was well done in crayon, and soon the wealthy patronized her. Years after, she wrote: "Como is ever in my thoughts. It was at Como, in my most happy youth, that I tasted the first real enjoyment of life."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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