Galizia, Fede (1578–1630)

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Galizia, Fede (1578–1630)

Italian painter, one of the earliest still-life painters in Italy, who was also known for miniature portraits, landscapes, and religious subjects. Born in Milan, Italy, in 1578; died in 1630; daughter of Annunzio Galizia (a painter).

Little is known of the life of Fede Galizia, who was probably taught to paint by her father Annunzio Galizia, a miniaturist. Galizia was recognized for her talent at the age of 12, and by the time she was in her teens enjoyed an international reputation as a portraitist. Among her few authenticated works is a remarkable still life signed and dated 1604, when the artist was 24. By virtue of this painting (which was once held in the Anholt Collection in Amsterdam but is now missing), scholars have attributed to her a group of formerly unidentified still-life paintings.

Jesuit scholar and historian Paolo Morigia was one of Galizia's earliest patrons, and in a collection of short biographies published in 1595 he wrote that she showed signs of "becoming a truly noble painter." He praised one of her portraits of him, declaring this work "of such excellence, and such a good likeness, that one could not desire anything more." Although that particular portrait was lost, another of Morigia, painted a year later, survives. Describing it in Women Artists, 1550–1958, Ann Harris and Linda Nochlin remark that in the tradition of naturalistic portraiture in Northern Italy during the 16th century, the painting records Morigia in an almost photographic likeness, "unfiltered by either idealizing conventions or the artist's own personality." They further speculate that Galizia's father may have trained her to paint in the naturalistic style of Sofonisba Anguissola , who came from Cremona, 50 miles southeast of Milan, and may have been known to him. Galizia may have also been influenced by Lorenzo Lotto, or even Raphael whose work she may have seen on visits to Florence.

The still life upon which the greater part of Galizia's reputation rests is described by Germaine Greer in The Obstacle Race:

It is a small panel, showing a dish of fruit glowing in warm, focused light, against a mysterious background. The globes of fruit swell softly against the hard edges of the dish and its metallic sheen vibrates against the velvetness of their skin. Beneath and to one side stand a pear and a half. The hard enamelled skin of the pears indicates another extreme of the picture's frame of sensuous reference, while the sheerness of the face of the cut pear dramatizes the whole composition. As if to alert us still more to the frailty of these beautiful objects, the pears are balanced by a blowzy rose, lightly subsiding on the other side of the edgeless surface upon which they all exist.

According to Harris and Nochlin, Galizia may have been inspired to try the new genre of still life by Jan Brueghel, who was present in Milan in 1595. Two other still-life paintings, Basket of Peaches and Still Life with Peaches (Heusy, Belgium, E. Zurstrassen Collection), have also been attributed to Galizia. The restrained treatment of her still lifes did not endure, eventually giving way to an elaborate, lavish style reflecting the Flemish influence. Known to have prepared her will on June 21, 1630, the artist is thought to have died of the plague that overtook Italy at that time.


Greer, Germaine. The Obstacle Race. NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979.

Harris, Ann Sutherland, and Linda Nochlin. Women Artists, 1550–1950. L.A. County Museum of Art: Knopf, 1976.

Petteys, Chris. Dictionary of Women Artists. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1985.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts