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[1] Giovanna Garzoni was one of the few woman artists who was, in her time, a successful painter of miniatures. She  especially developed the genre of still life, but also ventured into portraiture and religious themes. Born in Ascoli Piceno, Marche, Italy in 1600, not being the daughter of a painter as used to happen with the women who came to engage in this activity; however, her parents Giacomo Garzoni and Isabetta Gaia came from families of artisans. Her talent was discovered when she was apprenticed to a pharmacist in her city. A letter written by her in 1620 reveals that she was trained in painting by Giacomo Rogni.


Her first painting was entitled “The Holy Family”, made ​​when she was 16. Another of her earlier works was a book of calligraphy decorated with fruits, birds and flowers, published in 1625. At the age of 30 Garzoni left Venice to travel to Naples with her brother. In this city she worked under the patronage of the Spanish Duke of Alcalá, but he returned to Spain she moved to Turin, accepting an invitation from the Duke of Savoy. In this city she worked for five years and in 1640 traveled to Florence, where she continued her work for the Court of the Medici. In 1654 Garzoni moved to Rome where she became a member of the Accademia di San Luca (association of artists founded in 1593), which was unusual at that time as it was not customary to admit women. Giovanna Garzoni’s work shows the influence of Jacopo Ligozzi, painter, illustrator and miniaturist who also developed a descriptive work of the fauna and flora of almost scientific quality. This topic was of great interest to the Medici, especially the Grand Duke Ferdinando II and his brother, Cardinal Leopoldo. Many of the works of Garzoni have survived and are in various museums. They come from the carefully preserved collection of Ferdinando II and his wife, the Grand Duchess Vittoria della Rovere. Nearly 40 works have been traced in Florentine collections and others are recorded in the Medici inventories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In the Galleria Palatina, Piazzo Pitti in Florence, this watercolour on vellum is one of the works of Garzoni in their collection [2]. The title is “Natura morta con uva, pere ed una chiocciola”, and it is dated 1651–1662. The snail is a dextral Helix species, very naturalistically drawn. It might be e.g. Helix cincta (Müller, 1774) or H. lucorum (Linnaeus, 1758), which are both variable species and known to occur in the region where Garzoni worked. But the genetic variation within the genus only starts now to be unraveled [3].

Garzoni2_uvas y caracol

There is another watercolour, entitled “Natura morta con piatto con una melagrana, castagne, una lumaca ed una cavalletta” with a Helix shell only [4]. However, the picture cannot be viewed in any detail.


And a third work from this artist was found on [1], without any details on its whereabouts. It shows a porcupine and a similar snail as in the first still life.


[1] Abridged and adapted from http://to.ly/Bo3g.
[2] GPF, inv. 1890 nr. 4769. http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/archiviofotografico/Esito.aspx, search for “Garzoni” (21 July 2014).
[3] Korábek, O. et al., 2014. Resurrecting Helix straminea, a forgotten escargot with trans-Adriatic distribution: first insights into the genetic variation within the genus Helix (Gastropoda: Pulmonata). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 171: 72–91.
[4] GPF, inv. 1890 nr. 4759.