Elisabetta Sirani The Infant Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness Dated 1664


Born 1638
Died 1665
Nationality Italian

As was often the case with women painters at this period, Sirani was born into a family of artists and trained in the studio of her father Giovanni Andrea. He was Guido Reni’s principal assistant during the last decade or so of his career, and remained faithful to his master’s style. A persistent legend that Elisabetta had been a pupil of Reni too is absurd as she was only four years old when he died. And in fact the style she developed was quite distinct from that of her father, aligned with more recent developments in Bolognese painting in the 1640s. Sirani was a precocious talent, and was receiving major public commissions by the age of 20, mainly for altarpieces. But her most popular works were more intimate, smaller scale devotional paintings, as well as portraits. Many of her works can be identified in the Nota or journal she kept, which was published by her biographer Carlo Cesare Malvasia. Sirani never left her native city, but her reputation extended far beyond it. Her career was cut tragically short by her death at the age of only twenty-seven.