Elisabetta Sirani, The Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist (detail), around 1650–1660, etching on paper. Purchase, Franks Fund and European Art Acquisition Fund, 2018 (61-010). Photo: Bernard Clark
Visit Digital AGNES and take a closer look at Elisabetta Sirani’s (1638–1665) evocative etching The Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist. Acquired in 2018, this work of the mid-seventeenth century represents the earliest work known to have been created by a female artist to enter Agnes’s European art collection.
This highlight elucidates the artwork through the lens of three distinct perspectives presented in the form of an essay and two audio segments. Listen as art historian and renowned Sirani expert Dr Babette Bohn (Texas Christian University) situates the print in the context of the cultural networks of the artist’s dynamic hometown of Bologna, based on the most recent insights from her new book Women Artists, Their Patrons, and Their Publics in Early Modern Bologna (Penn State University Press: 2021). Kingston-based printmaker and arts educator Rebecca Cowan brings a maker’s perspective to the work’s finest details by talking about the staged etching process and technical skill evident in the print’s composition. In her discussion of the print, Queen’s MA student Madeline Legg explains how emphatic representations of biblical subjects such as this one contributed to Sirani’s unique oeuvre and professional reputation.
This rare etching is one of only ten known compositions that Sirani produced in print. Sirani was a remarkable talent who achieved great success as an exceptional painter during her lifetime when few women artists were celebrated in the same way.