Arcangela Paladini (Pistoia 1596 - Florence 1622)
“SEREN.MA MARIAE MAGDALENAE AUSTRIACAE IUSSU MANO PROPRIA SE PINGEBAT A: D: 1621” on the canvas side
The daughter of painter Filippo Paladini, Arcangela was educated in the monastery of Sant’Agata in Florence, and was not just a painter; she was also a singer and a tapestry expert. From a young age she enjoyed the protection of the Medici Grand Duchesses, Christina of Lorraine and then Maria Maddalena of Austria, which aided her artistic training. She studied painting with Jacopo Ligozzi and singing with Francesca Caccini, performing before the court of the grand duchy in the church of Santa Felicita and in Palazzo Pitti. In 1616 she married a Flemish tapestry maker, Jan Broomans from Antwerp, from whom she learned the profession, becoming so skilled that she became well known, not only as a favourite “singer” for the Medici house, but also as “Arcangiola ricamatora” or tapestry maker. This young and talented artist died in 1622 at just 23 years of age. Maria Maddalena d’Austria had a funeral monument built in her honour in the church of Santa Felicita, decorated with the figures of Music and Painting, and made by sculptor Antonio Novelli.
The self-portrait, painted at the request of the grand duchess, is the only painting that we know of by Arcangela and it records her features from only a year before her death: the dark dress and string of pearls heighten the intensity of the beautiful face, while the sober, simple appearance indicates a soul prone to devotion and confidentiality.