Fede Galizia – An Italian Renaissance Artist of Still Life, Portraiture and Miniature Merit

Italian Renaissance painter Fede Gallizi, also known as Fede Galizia (1578-1630), is often considered the pioneer of the Still-Life style. Her father Nunzio Galizia (1573-95), a Miniaturist, named her Fede (Italian, meaning faith) and trained her. At the age of twelve, she bagged praises from the noted painter Gian Paolo Lomazzo (1538-92) for the imitations she had created. By an early age, Fede proved her creative caliber, especially in portraiture, and started working on commissions.

Her early paintings focused on jewelry and clothes, capturing their intricate details that immensely leveraged the painter’s capacity in portraiture. Galizia was also often invited to paint religious and secular themes. She made her first ‘dated’ still life work, in 1602. Fede painted miniatures, portraits, and altarpieces, but her forte was Still Life. Oriented to Renaissance & flavored with Realism, her creations were detailed, full of vibrant colors, and wonderful light effects. They would almost force the viewer to reach out and attempt to hold the objects in the image. Her attention to light, shadow, and the rendition between the two, was unrivalled at times. Dipped in Lombard Mannerism of the 16th century, most of her Still-Life works were with fruits and flowers. The only variations in capturing existed as cut fruits.

Fede Galizia was an excellent painter of altarpieces and miniatures too. She received several related public commissions for the churches of Milan. Her best-known altarpiece is the ‘Noli me tangere’ (1616), which she made for the altar of the Saint Maria Maddalena Church, Florence. While her most famous work is ‘Still-life with Peaches and a Porcelain and a Bowl,’ ‘Peaches in a Pierced White Faience Basket’ also got her much praise. Her portraits, believed to be self-portraits, such as ‘Judith with the head of Holofernes’ (1596) and ‘Judith and her Handmaiden’ (1596) are also renowned for her creative versatility. Her portrait ‘Portrait of Paolo Morigia’ (1596) impressed the writer Morigia so much that he became a devout supporter of Fede. Through her life, the painter kept shuttling between the triangle of Italy, Greece, and Spain to gather some creative fodder.

Despite all the work she was doing, Galizia’s talent did not receive the amount of praise it deserved. While several of her most beautiful works were credited to her male counterpart Panfilo Nuvolone (1581-1651), many other went unnoticed. Living as a happy singleton, she passed away in 1630, due to the plague, which had struck Milan during 1629-31. In late 20th century, 1963-89 to be precise, her works were studied and commanded fame & respect they deserved.

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