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Milan 1578 – 1630

Fede Galizia was a child prodigy of the early Italian Baroque; her most important and best-loved works are a series of naturalistic still lifes, often of fruit seen on a metal or porcelain tazza set dramatically against a dark background. In this she was part of a Milanese movement, encouraged by Cardinal Federico Borromeo, which included Caravaggio (1571–1610), Ambrogio Figino (1540–1608) and Panfilo Nuvolone (1581–1651). As a result, she received the patronage of Milanese nobility and clergy, and is known to have been greatly appreciated at the Court of Rudolph II in Prague. Throughout her life she showed a versality in her work, producing grand biblical scenes commissioned by the anti-reformist Church under the Spanish Habsburgs as well as portraits and still lifes.

Galizia learnt her craft by working in her father’s workshop, an artist in his own right. She displayed a particularly precocious artistic virtuosity, leading biographer Gian Paolo Lomazzo to single her out her at the age of twelve in his 1590 treatise Idea del tempio della pittura. Galizia’s father was an engraver, miniaturist and designer of ceremonial clothes, the impact of which is present throughout her work, for instance in her sumptuous and creative design for Judith’s dress in both versions of Judith with the Head of Holofernes (1596/1601). Her early talent for portrait painting is discernable in her penetrating likeness of the Jesuit historian, Paolo Morigia (ca. 1592/95) in which the Lombard naturalistic tradition of Moretto da Brescia (1498–1554), Giovanni Battista Moroni (1520–1578) and Lorenzo Lotto (1480–1557) resonates. 

The 1590s inaugurated a period of great success for Galizia from both patrons and peers. Paolo Morigia celebrated her work in his census of great artists in the 1595 Nobiltà di Milano. Shortly afterwards Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593) took a personal interest and had her work sent to Prague for Rudolph II. Galizia, painting still lifes from the beginning of her career, was influenced by Vincenzo Campi (1564–1631), who appropriated and popularized Dutch genre scenes in nearby Cremona. The similarity between her Peaches, Quinces, and a Grasshopper (ca. 1610) and Jan Brueghel’s (1568–1625) Vase of Flowers with Jewel, Coins and Shells (1608) suggests she also was inspired directly by Northern paintings owned by her patron, the Cardinal Federico Borromeo. A lesser known aspect of her œuvre are her copies of great masterpieces.


Top Auction Results for Fede Galizia

A Glass Compote with Peaches, Jasmine Flowers, Quinces, and a Grasshopper
Sold for $2,415,000 
New York, Sotheby’s, 30 January 2019, Master Painting Evening Sale, lot 42

A Still Life of a Porcelain Bowl of Grapes on a Stone Ledge with a Medlar, Quinces, a Pomegranate and a Wasp; a Still Life of a Porcelain Basket of Plums and Grapes on a Stone Ledge with Pears
Sold for $2,055,000
New York, Sotheby’s, 1 February 2018, Master Paintings Evening Sale, lot 20 

Peaches in a pierced white faience basket
Sold for £680,000 ($1,249,517)
London, Christie’s, 6 July 2006, Important Old Masters Pictures, lot 31


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