The Baroque Artist Who Captured the World in Her Still Lifes

Giovanna Garzoni, “Dog with a Biscuit and a Chinese Cup” (1640s),” miniature on parchment (image courtesy Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Firenze)

FLORENCE, Italy — The most curious things laid across Giovanna Garzoni’s table. On a given day, it might have been a petite English lapdog and a painted teacup from China. On another, the Italian Baroque artist (1600-70) may have filled a Ming porcelain vase with Mexican marigolds, cockscombs from India, and Japanese morning glory. Garzoni’s tablescape was a map of the world, and she wanted to chart every detail.

“Women have been left out of the narrative of globalism,” says Sheila Barker, curator of “The Greatness of the Universe” in the art of Giovanna Garzoni, a solo exhibition dedicated to Garzoni at Florence’s Pitti Palace. “It’s usually a story about men and ships.” Instead, in Garzoni’s over 50 surviving still lifes, she illustrated things shipped across the world and docked at her table.

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