By Martina Tanga

Venetian painter Giulia Lama, the first woman known to draw and study the male nude from a live model, was born on this day in 1681. Scholars have recently confirmed this as they have discovered some 200 drawings of both male and female nudes attributed to the artist. Lama learnt how to paint first with her father, the artist Agostino Lama, and then with Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, a Rococo painter she had known since her infancy. Piazzetta painted her portrait in 1720, when Lama was 39 years old. Piazzetta renders Lama with an expression of confidence and determination. As a female painter in a male dominated profession, Lama had plenty of adversary critics. Specifically, their sexist remarks focused on her unremarkable, almost unappealing physical appearance, and they wondered how a woman of such prosaic appearance could produce such sophisticated and appealing paintings. Undeterred by such narrow-mindedness, Lama received many commissions where she showed her technical as well as expressive ability on canvas. An intelligent woman, she was also an avid poet, and had a firm understanding of mathematics and a passion for philosophy.

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, Portrait of Giulia Lama, c. 1720, Oil canvas, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Standing Male Nude, c. 1730, graphite on paper

Crucifixion with apostles, c. 1740, Oil on canvas

Judith and Holofernes, 1730, Oil on canvas

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