Close-up of a painting being restored. Save Venice, Women Artists of Venice_

Save Venice:
Meet the Women Artists of Venice


It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) once more, and the theme for this year’s edition is ‘Inspire Inclusion’… which is precisely why we were thrilled to learn about a brilliant, ongoing initiative celebrating female makers. Launched by the non-profit Save Venice in 2021, the Women Artists of Venice (WAV) programme is resurrecting the careers and reputations of the city’s forgotten female masters from the early modern period.

Venice is famed for its elegant bridges, enchanting canals, and the smorgasbord of fashion, fun and frolics that amount to the carnival. Yet sadly, the northeastern Italian town is also renowned because it’s slowly sinking. And indeed, it’s been happening since the 118-island settlement was first constructed in 421 A.D; owing to its weight pushing down on the mud below it, forcing out water and compressing the soil. Alas, this process accelerated due to decades of manmade action in the twentieth century: industry pumped humongous quantities of groundwater from the aquifers underneath the eponymous lagoon. When coupled with the acqua alta (periodic high tides between autumn and spring), it meant this urban area was prone to flooding; as occurred in 1966, when there was an unprecedentedly destructive one – many homes were devastated and over six million dollars of art was ruined.

As a result of such an all-around blow, in an attempt to help this captivating place rise out of the ashes in relation to culture, Save Venice was established in 1971. The American organisation’s raison d’être is to safeguard said heritage of the titular metropolis by preserving and promoting her art. To this end, following its inception, through painstaking fact-finding and unwavering dedication, approximately 2,000 such works have been conserved.

Today, one of Save Venice’s projects – started on the company’s 50th anniversary three years ago, and still underway – is Women Artists of Venice. Its chief aim is ‘to recover the history of women artists and artisans’ born in or operating in the aforementioned city from 1450-1789 through a programme of conservation and fresh research. And currently, this involves the publicizing and upkeep of the paintings and pastels of a trio of super-talented craftswomen who’d hitherto been somewhat unremembered: Marianna Carlevarijs (1703-1750), Rosalba Carriera (1673-1757), and Giulia Lama (1681-1747).

In fact, Save Venice is running a momentous exhibition honouring the Italian called Eye to Eye with Giulia Lama: A Woman Artist in 18th-Century Venice (till June 8, 2024). It focuses on five of her canvasses the organisation’s experts recently restored to their former sublimity. These comprise of Four Evangelists, depicting Matthew, Mark, Luke and John above an altar, and Virgin in Prayer (assumed to be a female saint in all her glory). For yonks, both were high up on display in different churches, and dingy and dark due to exposure to the elements; but now the WAV team have worked wonders with their specialist treatments, the compositions are on show at Pinacoteca Manfrediniana and the Sacristy of the Basilica della Salute respectively. Hence, as before, it’s possible to clearly observe how Lama’s imaginative amalgam of deft brushstrokes has created such images of brooding beauty, that they instantly seem to seep into the consciousness. If you ask us, it’s great treasures like these are being preserved and groundbreaking female artists from this era are finally being recognised and promoted. Unfortunately, because of historical anti-womankind prejudice, their essential contribution to this art form has often been casually overlooked or purposely ignored.

Initially founded in 1911, International Women’s Day could hardly be more important, as the initiative illustrates the age-old inequalities between men and women, particularly in terms of their general position in society, rights and welfare. Regretfully, many of these disparities still exist presently, spanning countries and cultures across the globe. But the Women Artists of Venice scheme, which fits right in with IWD’s aspiration of ‘Inspire Inclusion’, demonstrates continuing, much-needed change is on the horizon. And although Venice is gradually sinking; the recognition of some of her female innovators is deservedly on the rise.

Photography courtesy of Save Venice

Bloom opt-in slide-in homepage

Join us on an adventure

Subscribe to our newsletter to enjoy early access to the latest news, luxury hotel reviews and inspiring travel tales, delivered straight to your inbox.

A confirmation email has been sent to your inbox. Welcome to the club!