They painted magnificent works, from Madonnas to Last Suppers, often earning more than men. But their paintings were hidden away. Now a rescue mission is creating a fresh female Renaissance
In a dark cluttered studio in central Florence, restorer Rossella Lari is working on a little-known jewel of the Renaissance. It's vast: a seven metre by five metre depiction of the Last Supper, with figures that are almost lifesize, that was painted in the 1560s.
As she works, Lari says she thinks often of the person who painted it. “You get to know an artist when you restore their painting,” she says. “You learn about them from the way they use the paint, from their brushstrokes, from their attention to detail.” This artist, she says, was strong, confident and determined. She had to be, because she was also female, the earliest significant female Renaissance artist.