An infinite number of artists, despite their extraordinary artistry, have been forgotten throughout time. And this didn’t just include the women artists but even male artists. In this series of forgotten artists, I present you with one of the finest Venetian painters who has been rediscovered by history and is a superior painter in contrast to even Rosalba Carriera, when it comes to large-scale works. If you don’t believe me, read out these lines, which are from 1 March 1728, written by Abbot Luigi Conti in a letter to Madame de Caylus.
“I have discovered here a woman who paints better than Rosalba Carriera when it is a matter of large-scale compositions. I was impressed by one of her small works, but at the moment, she is working on a large-format painting. The subject of the painting is the Rape of Europe… The group is full of poetry because this woman is as brilliant a poet as she is a painter, and I find in her poems the same qualities as in the works of Petrarch. Her name is Giulia Lama. In her youth, she studied mathematics under the celebrated p. Maffei: the poor girl is persecuted by the painters, but her virtue triumphs over her enemies. It is true that she is ugly as she is witty, but she speaks with grace and precision, so one easily forgives her face. She works in lace.”
As you read through the soulful lines in praise of our very talented Giulia, let me finally admit that the show is up, and we are on our way to exhibiting some of the most beautiful paintings of history through her. But before that, let me tell you that Abbot wrote a description of the Lama, who was born in Venice and demonstrated excellent artistic ability,
“a talented poet and studied mathematics under the famous Pater Maffei. She also does embroidery and has spent much time thinking about the invention of a machine which will produce lace mechanically.”
Now, that you have a brief answer to the question of how this Venetian painter was more than an inspiration, let us start exploring her artworks through her life.
Artist Abstract: Giulia Lama.
There is no definite documentary evidence that the biography of Giulia Lama survives. However, there is little to know about her life. Born in the parish of Santa Maria Formosa on 1 October 1681 in Venice, she was the daughter of Agostino Lama and Valentina. And she closed her eyes forever on 7 October 1747. Since we have a lesser life of the artist, we are looking more through her artworks.
Besides, there were assumptions that Giulia was a student of Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. However, the two were very close friends, and they continued to be influenced by each other’s artworks. Giulia served as a model for some of his portraits, including a portrait of Giulia, where she is portrayed as a painter with a palette and brush in her hand. Among the first female artists to regularly study nude male and female models from life, she produced over 200 drawings.
|Birth||1 October 1681|
|Death||7 October 1747|
|Famous Paintings||The Madonna and Child with Saint Peter, St Magnus, the Allegory of Venice, and Crucifixion|
Life and Artworks From the Artist.
Giulia Lama is essentially known for her two large altarpieces in the Venetian Churches of Santa Maria Formosa and San Vidal in 1729s, which are The Madonna and Child with Saint Peter, St Magnus, the Allegory of Venice, and Crucifixion.
Previously, I mentioned how we do not have much of the biographical life of Giulia. So, the first reference from where people sought to know her name was when Fiocco published her Self Portrait in 1725 in 1929 and identified it as a romantic connection between the famous Venetian painter Piazetta and Giulia. After that, it was also suggested by a few people that they were cousins from the reference to the wrong interpretation of the documents. Later, Don Gino Bortolan established that the date and birth of the registers of Santa Maria Formosa show that she was four and a half years younger than Piazzetta, revealing a pupil-or-follower relationship instead of a cousin or romantic attachment. I am telling you these facts as Giulia’s paintings were wrongfully said to be part of Piazetta’s collection. Previously, in the introduction, when I showed you the letter, I also stated that we do not know her many parts of life. Little do we know that she had skills as a mathematician and gifts as a poet, but that too in how much depth, we don’t know.
Piazetta and Lama probably knew each other from childhood, and when he got married in 1724, he was still the resident of the parish of San Lio, adjacent to the Giulia’s parish of Santa Maria Formosa.
The first artwork of the Giulia Lama is notably the Portrait of Pietro Grimani from 1719, which was engraved by Andrea Zucchi. In 1722, she secured some of the most significant commissions to paint the altarpieces for her parish Church, Santa Maria Formosa, in the Sestiere of Castello. Originally, these altarpieces were located under the arch of the high altar on the back wall of the Church. One famous altarpiece is The Virgin and Child With Saints (in Santa Maria Formosa, Venice). Giulia depicts the Virgin and Child at the top of the artwork, Matthew below to the left, his attribute, an angel, in the center, and St Joseph on the right. The postures are filled with grace, and the colors, chosen by Giulia Lama are extremely beautiful. The paint surface is boldly handled, with the touch that is one of the characteristics of the artist. Appearing as highly original, this painting reflects dignity and assurance to the viewer.
Among the paintings at the central altar of the San Vidal, The Crucifixion of Lama on the left, facing Antonio Tarsia’s sculptured Annunciation altar on the right, indicates that Lama played a major role in a scheme of decoration that involved a group of distinguished artists. This distinguished group includes Carpaccio’s high altar, Sebastiano Ricci’s Immaculate Conception, and Piazzetta’s Guardian Angel, accompanied by Anthony of Padua and Gaetano Thiene. On the left is Angelo Trevisan’s SS Sebastian and Roch, while Antonio Pellegrini’s Trinity with SS Joseph and Francis of Paolo by Antonio Piazzetta dates back to 1727, which gives an approximate date to the whole scheme. This information itself tells that Giulia Lama was quite a superb artist who worked with great masters of art. Almost suggesting an Assumption rather than a Crucifixion, Crucifixion is one of the finest paintings of the Giulia, with the Christ off center to the right, balanced by two weeping putti: the Almighty and the Holy Dove. This picture has an off-center axis in the finely carved figure of St John, on the lower left, circling the Cross by the nail that penetrated Christ’s foot as the Virgin swoons into a mass of drapery with two Apostles gesticulating above.
The third great religious work to be found near Venice was also overlooked and misunderstood, as the parish church at Malamocco on the Lido lies off the beaten path. In 1927, Fiocco discovered it, and since then it has been known as A Saint in Glory. The concept of this painting is so bold and original that no one has noticed it represents the Assumption of the Virgin. In addition to the empty tomb and the Twelve Apostles, the lower half of the canvas is almost square. A Virgin kneels on a cloud near the top of the canvas, slightly off-center. The angels support her with outstretched arms as she gazes to heaven; one holds the cloud on his back with another arm outstretched; the final angel performs a balletic pose to the right of her.
Another famous painting from Giulia’s gallery is Judith and Holofernes. Previously, I wrote an article on the painting version by Artemisia, which you can refer to know a lot about backstory. Hanging in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Venice, it shows a scene from the Biblical story of Judith and Holofernes. Rather than just beheading of Holofernes by the Jewish widow, Guilia painted the Holofernes body in asleep mode but twisted into an unnatural position. What sets this painting apart from others is the dramatic lightening and flickering of a candle, which contributes to making the atmosphere turned into gloomy and melancholy. As Judith turns one last time to God in prayer before she finally beheads the Holofernes with her sword, Giulia Lama sets her in semi-darkness.
Other paintings of Giulia Lama are Saturn devouring His Son, Nudo Femminil, and Saint Anne Raptures.
Giulia Lama is one of the terrific artists from Italy who fantastically portrayed religious historical themes. Being a large-scale painter, I personally found her artworks intriguing and absolutely timeless.
1. Dictionary of Women Artists [Volume 2] by Delia Gaze.
2. 50 Women Artists You Should Know by Christiane Weidemann.
Frequently Asked Questions.
Giulia Lama was a 17th-century Italian model and artist who was among the first female artists to study nude female and male bodies and is known for her decorations of various Churches through her Historical and Religious artworks.
Some of the most famous paintings of Giulia Lama subjects Historical and religious themes as well as the nude studies.
Giulia Lama was born on 1 October 1681.