THE LAY FIGURE. WOMEN AS intelligence the lives o the Italian poetesses, girl
ARTISTS. graduates, learned ladies, and women - artists.
Every town of importance kept written record
"Quite true," said the Lay Figure. of its own great women, and the honours bestowed
" It is a subject about which a fine book might be on those who were good painters attracted the
written." attention of foreign princes. Thus Sofonisba
"What subject is that?" asked the Art His- Anguisciola, a sort of female Titian, became por-
torian, entering the studio. trait-painter to Philip II. of Spain. One could
"Woman's mission as an artist," the Lay Figure give a good many other examples, but my point
replied. is simply this—that the great respect shown to
"The word 'mission' reminds me of Exeter women of talent must not be forgotten by anyone
Hall," said the Art Historian, " but I suppose you who wishes to understand Italian life and character
mean that it is worth while to ask ourselves if during the Renaissance."
there are not some provinces of art in which "And your point is a good one," said the Man
women ought to be more successful than men ? " with a Clay Pipe. "But, remember, it appeals
" I mean that and something more," answered to one's love of historic truth rather than to
the Lay Figure. "To arrive at a clear and just the aesthetic sense, and thus I want to know
opinion as to the position which women should if your early women - artists were noteworthy
occupy in the arts, it would be necessary to pass as such."
in review all the best art work produced by them " I think they were," said the Lay Figure. " The
since the dawn of the Renaissance; and if this influence that the aesthetic genius of those periods
were done honestly by a sympathetic and com- had upon women lasted from the days of Caterina
petent critic, I am inclined to think that the result Vigri, who died in 1463, to those of Elisabetta
would be a pleasant surprise to most people." Sirani, who died in 1665 ; and you will find that
" Ernst Guhl, a German, tried to do what you the progress made in art by the fair was continuous
suggest," said the Art Historian; "and his little between those dates. It never produced trans-
volume, Die Frauen in die Kunstgeschichte, was of cendently wonderful results, but it was as uniform
great service to Mrs. Ellet, an American lady, —on a lower plane, of course—as the art progress
whose book on Women Artists in all Ages and that men made between Cimabue's time and
Countries ran into a second edition in i860." Raphael's. Is not that a memorable fact?"
" Mrs. Ellet did her best," the Lay Figure said, "I can't say no," said the Art Historian,
"but we want something more serious than her "When critics sneer because the female sex has
criticisms at second-hand, and I am sure that a not given us rivals of the greatest Old Masters,
thorough history of woman's work in the arts neither we nor they gain anything. As well might
would be popular and useful. It would need they sneer because their own sex does not produce
plenty of illustrations, of course." to-day such a sculptor as Phidias, or such a
"So you wish to see one more volume added to painter as Raphael."
the plague of books," remarked the Man with a " Good !" cried the poet. " There are many
Clay Pipe. "You may be right, but I should like species of flowers in the cultivated garden of art,
to feel quite certain that you are so. Will you then and the wise man is he who loves them all."
tell me why a complete history of women-artists "Quite apart from that," said the Lay Figure,
seems necessary to you ? " " it is always foolish to imply that the art of women
"There are several reasons," the Lay Figure should resemble the art of men. Each should be
answered. " To begin with, you cannot possibly instinct with the charm of sex, each should be the
understand the Renaissance in Italy unless you complement of the other. But in our own time,
are well acquainted with the fine admiration that somehow, most of the women-artists have tried
the Italians then had for women of ability. This their best to be masculine, while not a few of the
admiration was a new kind of chivalry, and those men have turned out effeminate work. It may be
who have not read about it usually believe that the useless to protest, but this kind of work is sterile,
Italian Renaissance was chiefly remarkable for it has no future; the world soon wearies of it, and
its contrasts of hideous vice and transcendent turns with joy to those men who put manhood
genius. Most accounts of that period, or series of into all their pictures or statues, and to those
periods, convey this impression, the crass stupidity women whose art is charmed with their own
of which will be plain to anyone who has read with natures." The Lay Figure.