In conversation with Jane Fortune on Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici as an inspiration, being a modern patroness of the arts, and giving a voice to women.
By Brigitte Arndt & Cristiano Brizzi
Our quest is engendered by curiosity; our mission is fed by conviction. Women artists must be celebrated and their work must be seen. Both their past and their future must be fully reclaimed—a single artwork at a time.
The quote above is by Jane Fortune, author, art collector, philanthropist, and founder and chair of Advancing Women Artists Foundation. A foundation that is devoted to “identifying and restoring artwork by women in Florence’s museum storages.” After receiving an Emmy-award for her book-turned-documentary Invisible Women, Jane Fortune was asked to create a second show for the series, When the World Answered, which premiered in Florence on the 20th of October and where our team was invited to attend by The Florentine.
Following the premiere, The Medici Dynasty Show team thought it a good time to sit down with Jane Fortune. On a sunny October morning Jane very warmly welcomed us into her home, filled – to no surprise – with beautiful art. We spoke to Jane about her role as modern patron of the arts and how Anna Maria Luisa and her gesture has been a source of inspiration.
Jane Fortune spent her junior-year-abroad here in Florence, three years before the flood in 1966, studying art history, and she disdainfully recalls never having had one lecture given on a women, nor seeing a single painting done by a women. It was only several years later that Jane started questioning this phenomenon, which eventually lead her to do what she does today. Centuries of negating women’s roles in society have lead to an ignorance about the indispensable function many of them had within their cultures. The Medici family for instance, reigning Florence for three centuries, consisted of a fine line of women not many people know about. Anna Maria Luisa, with her revolutionary Family Pact, bound “galleries, paintings, statues, libraries, jewels and other such precious things” to the city of Florence forever. Jane Fortune also uses Suor Plautilla Nelli (renaissance painter), known to be the first woman painter of Florence, as an example. Years ago she read a book on her, after which she asked her friends if they knew about her, to her disappointment NO ONE did, even though there is a rather large painting of hers in the San Marco Museum. Jane Fortune laughs when she says that her mission now is to get Nelli out there, make her famous.
Another female painter Jane Fortune spoke to us about is Artemisia Gentileschi. Gentileschi is one of the most accomplished Italian Baroque painters, she is also a symbol of international feminism as she overcame sexual abuse at a young age and the majority of her paintings express female emotions, which has more often than not been overlooked by male artists. She therefore used the fact that she was a woman to her advantage, and was maybe overlooked because only a female can really paint, understand and appreciate these emotions. According to Jane Fortune her work languished in storage for 363 years, and it took Jane a year to find the one she was looking to restore.
As The Medici Dynasty Show aims to shed light on Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici as a patron of the arts, and how she managed to preserve Florence’s art forever, we felt that there are some significant similarities between what she did and what Jane Fortune does today. She might very well be a modern patron of the arts. When speaking to her about Anna Maria Luisa, Jane Fortune calls her foresighted; foresighted not only for donating art pieces to the city, but also for making it possible for them to remain in the city, and she has been inspired by Anna Maria Luisa’s courage to do so. What they (Advancing Women Artists Foundation) do – albeit in a small way – is to find a work and restore it, which eventually leads to its preservation. This is their link, because this is in essence what Anna Maria Luisa set out to do, and did successfully. What Jane Fortune believes makes them slightly different, is that she (Jane) aims to safeguard and promote art by women; she seeks to give them a voice.
We also believe that Jane Fortune’s mission is far greater than merely preserving art, and giving women artists a voice, it is also about showing the fundamental role that women play in society, roles that tend to be ignored. Jane Fortune is, without a doubt, a modern patron of the arts, and an asset to Florence and the arts.
Giving A Voice to Women
Jane Fortune on Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the Advancing Women Artists Foundation naming an award after her, giving female artists a voice and being a modern patron of the arts.
Gentileschi Languishes in Storage for 363 years
Jane Fortune, or ‘Indiana Jane’, on bringing Artemisia Gentileschi out of storage after 363 years, restoring and exhibiting art, and shedding light on the legacy and impact of female artists of Florence.
Chauvinism: “Indiana Jane’s” Start in Florence
Jane Fortune speaking about her introduction to Florence, chauvinism in the arts and education, and making Suor Plautilla Nelli famous.