0272 "Iussu patris"? Prolegomena on Form and Function of Women Artists’ Signatures in the Early Modern Period

  • Samuel Vitali (Author)

    Samuel Vitali studied art history, history and Russian literature at the universities of Zurich and Bologna. In 1996 he completed his licentiate with a thesis on the reception of antiquity and the study of nature in the work of Nicholas of Verdun. From 1997–1999 he was a doctoral fellow at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, then a member of the Swiss Institute in Rome. From 2001–2004 Samuel worked as a freelancer for the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Bologna and from 2002–2004 as an assistant at the Art History Institute of the University of Zurich (chair of Prof. Peter Cornelius Claussen). In 2004 he earned his Ph.D. with a thesis on the Carracci's Romulus Frieze in the Palazzo Magnani, Bologna. After working as a curator at the Kunstmuseum Bern from 2000 to 2010, he has been editor of the Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz since 2010.

Identifiers (Article)


This article aims to give for the first time an overview of the form and function of women artists’ signatures in early modern Europe, with a particular focus on Italy. Through an analysis of the frequency with which women artists signed their works as well as the iconic and textual form of the inscriptions, it establishes a number of peculiarities that distinguish female from male signing practice. It attempts then to explain these differences by the specific sociocultural conditions under which artistic activity by women was possible and accepted. The central thesis is that the frequency and particular textual form of women’s signatures were prompted by the special interest of patrons and collectors in works created by female artists. Rather than an expression of their authors’ self-assurance as artists in a field dominated by men, as earlier scholarship tended to assume, the characteristics of female signing practice were often an index of their limited autonomy.



Published (Versions)

artist signature, women artists, Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Lavinia Fontana, Fede Galizia