Artibus et Historiae no. 75 (XXXVIII)

2017, ISSN 0391-9064

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LIANA DeGIROLAMI CHENEY - Giulia Lama: A Luminous Painter and a Tenebrist Poet (pp. 225–252)

Giulia Lama (1681–1747), a Venetian painter and poetess, was born in the parish of Santa Maria Formosa. At an early age, her father, Agostino Lama, trained her as a painter. Her close friendship with the Venetian painter Piazzetta has mislead scholars in thinking that she was his pupil. However, records show that they were fellow painters. Since the eighteenth century critics have been paralleling Lama’s physical unattractiveness of a harelip, snub nose and plainness, with her artistic talents, thus making negative statements about her natural appearance. At the same time she was highly regarded for her multiple artistic and intellectual talents, in embroidering and painting as well as in mathematics and poetry. Abbot Antonio Conti (1677–1749) commented in a letter of 1 May 1728 that ‘Giulia Lama excels much in poetry as in painting, and I find in her poems the turn of phrase of Petrarch’.

This essay focuses on two aspects about Lama’s accomplishments: as painter, examining some of her self-portraits and martyrdom paintings, and as a poet, analyzing an eulogy honoring and lamenting the death of her friend and poet Antonio Sforza (1700–1735). She also composed three poems and two songs translated for the first time in this essay. Her painterly brushstrokes of tenebrism, somber shadows, and dramatic coloratura are also reflected in her somber poetry. Lama epitomizes a nobil donna of the eighteenth century – the educated woman of the Enlightenment, who is accomplished in making lace, creating drawings and paintings, and composing philosophical poems.

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