Over the past few years, the once-obscure Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi has become a widely celebrated household name. The artist has been the subject of high-profile recent exhibitions at the National Gallery, London, and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut. Earlier this year, a new biography of her life was published. Gentileschi is far from the only woman artist of centuries past who is earning overdue recognition. In 2019, the Prado devoted the exhibition “A Tale of Two Women Painters” to 16th-century artists Lavinia Fontana and Sofonisba Anguissola. That same year Sotheby’s presented a sizable, and highly publicized sale, of the genre.  

If TEFAF Maastricht, which opens later this week, is any indication, interest in these women artists is only growing, with exhibitors showcasing a number of works by so-called female Old Masters, also underscoring a the hunger among collectors for these artists’s works. “Our dealers have seen a number of museums adding female Old Master artists to their collections, and it is still an area of relative opportunity, as prices are far below the male counterparts,” said a spokesperson for the fair. 

Among the highlights is the recently rediscovered Annunziation Miniature—Gabriel and the Virgin by Caterina Angela Pierozzi (1677), presented by Colnaghi Gallery. The image of the delicately rendered busts of Gabriel and the Virgin, surrounded by a gold frame with disengo floral adornments, is the first work by the artist to have been discovered. Until now, none were known to have survived; this one was uncovered during preparation for the gallery’s current exhibition, “Forbidden Fruit: Female Still Life,” now on view in London, which showcases works by artists including Fede Galizia, who has renowned for her tabletop still lives of flora and fauna.

Michaelina Wautier, Portrait Historié of a Man as Jacob, Husband of Rachel. Courtesy of Bijl-Van Urk B.V.

Michaelina Wautier, Portrait Historié of a Man as Jacob, Husband of Rachel. Courtesy of Bijl-Van Urk B.V.

The only known work by Pierozzi and an important rediscovery, The Annunciation (1677), represents the exceptional rarity of discovering the ‘first’ work, and thereby first revealing to the world an artist’s style,” Jorge Coll, of Colnaghi, told Artnet News. “There are few, if any, instances of this phenomenon occurring in recent art history,” he continued. 

​​The fair will also feature a work by Flemish artist Michaelina Wautier (1604–89), whose work was, for many centuries, posthumously attributed to both painter Jacob van Oost and Wautier’s own brother. Wautier first rose to attention following an unexpected blockbuster retrospective at MAS Antwerp in 2018, and since then she’s received increased attention from collectors. Holland’s Bijl-Van Urk B.V. will be presenting Wautier’s Portrait Historié of a Man as Jacob, Husband of Rachel. “Standing in the unjustified shadows of men for centuries, Michaelina is finally stepping into the spotlights she deserves!” said the gallery’s Sander Bijl.

 Giovanna Garzoni, The Virgin of the Chair (1649). Courtesy of Rob Smeets Gallery.

Giovanna Garzoni, The Virgin of the Chair (1649). Courtesy of Rob Smeets Gallery.

Though obscured for centuries, many of these artists were highly esteemed in their own times. In one instance, Geneva’s Rob Smeets Old Master Paintings will be offering a work by 17th-century Baroque painter Giovanna Garzoni—the painting of a Madonna and child was commissioned directly by the Medici family in 1649, a testament to the prestige which she had garnered. “In the highly changing environment we are living nowadays, inclusivity and diversity find their space at TEFAF this year through the celebration of great female artists such as Giovanna Garzoni,” said the gallery’s Paul Smeets. 

Perhaps the most captivating work among the fair’s offerings of women Old Masters is English portraitist Mary Beale’s luminous study of her husband, Charles Beale, presented by the Weiss Gallery of London. The portrait, made at the beginning of the couple’s marriage, depicts her husband, who was also her most loyal supporter, with great sensitivity.  

Mary Beale, An oil study of Charles Beale (the artist’s husband) (circa 1660). Courtesy of the Weiss Gallery

Mary Beale, An oil study of Charles Beale (the artist’s husband) (ca. 1660). Courtesy of the Weiss Gallery.

“These early oil studies—which exclusively depict her immediate family and were painted before she became a professional artist—are the earliest portraits in British art whereby the traditional roles of male artist and female muse were reversed,” said Charlie Mackay, director of Weiss Gallery. “Through these intimate, fluid paintings she brings to life the affection she holds for her subject, here being her husband Charles, who would become her studio manager later in her career.” According to the Mackay, the Beales’ inversion of conventional roles existed well beyond the canvas. “The Beales were a remarkably pioneering and successful partnership, in love and business, who challenged the status quo in late Stuart England, so we are delighted— indeed, proud—to be highlighting this particular example,” he concluded. 

 

TEFAF Maastricht takes place in Maastricht, the Netherlands, June 25–30, 2022, with a preview day on June 24. 

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