Still Life with Quince
Giovanna Garzoni was a female artist in seventeenth century Italy. She was born in Ascoli Piceno in the Marche. As early as 1616 she signed her first work which showed her talent for art at an early stage. Because the painting of oil on canvas was not predestined for women, she applied herself extremely successfully to the production of scientific illustrations and small portraits. At that time, this was more socially worthy for women because they could carry out this work from home. Together with her brother, she travelled via Rome to Naples to work for the Spanish viceroy. She wanted a steady income that she put aside for later. When the viceroy was recalled to Spain, she moved north again. Through Roman friends she now got a job at the court of Turin. Here, during her five-year stay, she first made the typical works that are now always recognized as Garzoni, the fruit studies on parchment. The clients there had a clear preference for this genre that had been appreciated in Northern Italy for a long time and was practiced by artists such as Fede Galizia.
After a stay in Paris with her brother Garzoni ended up in Florence where she worked for ten years. During this period her production peaked. She made portraits and decorative or scientific compositions of fruit and flowers. Especially the flowers and fruit compositions were highly appreciated. Giovanna Garzoni loved to vary endlessly on this theme.
She moved once more, now to Rome where she supported the Academia di San Luca, the association of artists. She asked to be allowed to build her house next to the headquarters of the Academia with the promise that she would leave everything to this society. In 1698, almost thirty years after her death, the academy set up a grave monument for her in the church where she is buried. This academy still preserves the legacy of Garzoni, including an important book with studies of individual pieces of fruit.
This study of a quince is typical of her work. Not only the subject, fruit, the use of parchment as a carrier, but also the fly on the fruit that frequently returns in her work. This is always beautifully shaded which makes the insect seem real.
In the album of the Academia di San Luca several studies of fruit have been included which, in terms of composition, are very similar to this work on parchment.
The Cydonia or quince is one of the oldest cultivated fruit tree varieties in the world. The species originates from the north of Persia and the plant has probably been cultivated there for more than four thousand years.
Because the fruit has been in culture for so long, the fruits of the quince have all sorts of symbolic meanings. In ancient Greece, quince was the symbol of love, happiness, fertility, wisdom, beauty and eternity. In Greek mythology, the apple is the fruit of fate, toy of the gods and demigods. It was the fruit of Aphrodite (goddess of beauty and love) and Gaia (Goddess of the earth). Paris handed Aphrodite a seed apple (the golden apple) which was a quince, for he had chosen her as the most beautiful of all goddesses. She 'donated' him as a reward the beautiful Helena, which caused the Trojan War. A Greek bride held a quince in her hand at her marriage as a symbol of her duty, to give her husband love and happiness. In Roman time the quince had a similar meaning. They often depicted their love goddess Venus with a quince in their hand. That’s how the quince, for example, came to its nickname apple of Venus.
S.M. Trkulja, E. Fumagalli, Nature Morte Giovanni Garzoni, Paris 2000
G. Casale, P.Lanzara, Giovanna Garzoni : "insigne miniatrice" 1600-1670, Milan 1991
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