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Diana Scultori Ghisi (1547–1612) was an Italian artist, also known under the name Diana Mantovana.

The Renaissance is the first time period where women artists gained international reputations. Perhaps this growth of art among women was due to cultural shifts, such as a move towards humanism, there were many published art and texts that illustrated this change. These texts also led to increased education among Italian women. Now women were permitted to study art.[1] Many women of that time learned about art from family members, it was common for the daughters of artisans to be trained in the family craft. However it was considered uncommon for a daughter to be trained in engraving and to make it a public career, as Diana Scultori Ghisi did.[2]

Born in 1547, one of three daughters Diana Scultori Ghisi, was a well known engraver of the 16th century. Not only was she remembered for her magnificent engravings, she was also recorded as the first woman ever allowed to sell her work under her own name. Since Diana was a woman she was unable to have formal apprenticeship in drawing. She was taught private lessons by her father, Giovanni Battista Mantuano to draw and engrave. Diana also had the reputation of a keen business woman, after her marriage to Francesco de Volterra, an aspiring architect, the couple moved to Rome to help set off his career [3]

Rome is where Diana approached the papal court with examples of engraved plates, requesting permission to sell her work under her own name. She was granted permission to sell her work under both the names Diana Mantuana and Diana Mantovana. She not only sold her work for her own benefit but also aided her husband gain work for his architectural commissions.

Diana was very well known for her being concerned with maintaining a good reputation. She was said to be very “charming” and “well-bred”. Diana was also family involved, aside from business, caring for her family was also one of her top priorities. Once Diana was married, her unmarried sister and widowed mother moved in with her and her husband.[4]

Diana worked within the restrictions encountered by artists of her time, and earned the reputation as a talented and captivating artist. Other popular artists such as Lavinia Fontana have also been known to use Diana’s prints as a structure for her painting. Diana herself also used other artist work as a foundation for her printings, but most of the drawings for Diana’s engravings came from either her husband, or a family member.

Diana’s father was an engraver for the Mantuan court, and Diana changed her name to be better associated with the court as her father was. She was known to have signed various signatures at different points in her lifetime. In most of her works she is referred to by the name of Diana Mantuana, or Diana Mantovana. It has not been recorded in any of her works that she went by, or signed the name Scultori. Diana was one of the few women artists that Vasari (Italian painter, and architect) mentioned in the 1568 edition of his Lives.[5]

It has been recorded that Diana has produced 62 prints during her lifetime. She was known do have had various styles throughout her works, which varied in success. Nonetheless she was well regarded by other artists (Scultori [Mantovano]). One of her most famous engravings was of an ionic volute abundantly decorated with a chain of elegantly acanthus leaves and flowers, a similar but smaller version of some of the decorated “bead and reel” and “egg and dart” moldings that decorate the capital. Looking like it came right from a picture it differed from many of the other popular works of that time. Under the engraving was a dedication composed of several lines of Latin words dedicating the work to the students of architecture. Along with her different modes of signing Diana was also known for her long dedications on her works.[6]

Her last dated print was in 1588 titled the Entombment after Paris Nogari. After Francesco Da Volterra’s death, Diana re-married Giulio Pelosi, another architect. She remained in Rome until her death, April 5, 1612. Several of Diana’s prints continued being printed after her death.[7]


1. ^ Women artists: Encyclopedia II- Women artists- renaissance era
2. ^ Lincoln
3. ^ Library and Research Center. (Clara Database of Women artists).
4. ^ Evelyn Lincoln, Making A Good Impression: Diana Mantuana (Renaissance Quarterly; 1997), 1-30
5. ^ Mantuana [Ghisi; Mantovana; Scultori], Diana, (Grove Art Online. 20 October 2006), 1
6. ^ Evelyn Lincoln, Making A Good Impression: Diana Mantuana (Renaissance Quarterly; 1997), 1-30.
7. ^ Mantuana [Ghisi; Mantovana; Scultori], Diana, (Grove Art Online. 20 October 2006), 1

Further reading

* Museums S.Francisco


* Austin , Jamie . "Italian Art: Women Artist Part II." 10 Feb 2008

* "Library and Research Center." Clara Database of Women artists. 22 Feburaury 2007. National museum of Women in the Arts. 10 Feb 2008

* Lincoln, Evelyn. "Making A Good Impression: Diana Mantuana." JSTOR. 1997. Renaissance Society of America. 13 Feb 2008

* "Mantuana [Ghisi; Mantovana; Scultori], Diana." Grove Art Online. 20 October 2006. Grove Art Online. 19 Feb 2008

* "Scultori [Mantovano]." Grove Art Online. 31 March 2000. Grove Art Online. 19 Feb 2008

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