Buried in storage throughout Florence are thousands of evocative paintings, sculptures, and drawings collected from Italy and around the world, that remain overlooked and unrestored. The reason? They were created by women. Too often stepped over in the long march of history, women were limited by social and cultural norms that prevented them from entering or dominating fields allocated to men – including the creative arts. Most of their works remain unseen, the stories of their lives and influence unexplored.
Jane Fortune and her Advancing Women Artists Foundation are dedicated to identifying these “Invisible Women”, restoring their artwork and bringing them into public view where their voices can be heard. While the foundation is an American not-for-profit, their commitment is to researching, restoring, and exhibiting artwork by women in Florence’s museums and storehouses. It is evidence of the great love held for the city by visitors from all over the world.
This is not the first time that women have powerfully influenced the artistic landscape of Florence. Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, whose story is told in The Medici Dynasty Show, changed the future of Florence with her creation of The Family Pact. This contract ensured that the considerable artistic patrimony of the Medici Family would be retained within the boundaries of Florence and Tuscany for all time. Now, in a contemporary approach to preservation, the work of Jane Fortune and her foundation to restore lost works by women artists will ensure that their rich legacy will also carry forward into the future. Every artwork enriches Florentine culture and widens the lens through which we imagine the histories that define this ancient city, casting our gaze upon its visionary women.
There is no better day than this, the “Festa della Donna”, International Women’s Day, to applaud these great women from the past and present. From those Florentine born, to those from all over the world, the soul of Florence would be hollow without them.
By Marisa Garreffa