The main objective of this paper is to discuss the life and works of Hidegard of Bingen. It will be explained how Hidegard of Bingen became an artist, what challenges she faced in her career, how different she was from other artists. The paper also outlines the history of still life flower painting, women artists’ contribution to this art, the history of tulip mania in the 17th century as well as several prominent female artists of the 18th century, for instance, Rosalba Carriera, Marie Louise Elizabeth and Vigee-Labrun.
Hildegard of Bingen, also known as Sibyl of the Rhine, was the 10th child of a noble family. According to their traditions, the tenth child was supposed to be dedicated to church and that is why she was offered as an oblate. Hildegard of Bingen had visions of luminous objects when she was still young and after some time she realized that she had a unique ability. However, she did not expose her gift for a long time. When she was eight years old she was sent to Jutta, an anchoress, in order to acquire religious education.
The anchoress was quite beautiful and descended from a well-to-do and prominent family. Jutta spurned secular way of life and dedicated her life to serving God. Jutta taught Hildegard of Bingen how to read and write but she could not teach her pupil how to interpret the Bible. Jutta and Hildegard of Bingen meditated, prayed, read scriptures, for instance, the psalter, and, also, did handwork. Volmar taught Hildegard of Bingen simple psalm notation.
After the death of Jutta in 1136, Hildegard of Bingen’s fellow nuns elected her as the magistra of the community. Abbot Kuno asked Hildegard of Bingen to be Prioress; this post was under his authority. Nonetheless, Hildegard of Bingen wanted to be independent and that is why she asked Abbot Kuno for permission to go to Rupertsberg. Hildegard had her first vision “The Shade of the Living Light” when she was three years old; although she was five years old when she realized that she experienced supernatural apparitions. Hildegard of Bingen confided her dreams only to Jutta and Volmar. She experienced several visions later in life. When she was 42 she had a vision in which she believed to be instructed by God to write down everything what she heard and saw. Since she was hesitant to follow God’s instructions, he used an illness to punish her.
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Hidegard of Bingen faced several challenges, for instance, she suffered from severe migraine headaches. Also she was not educated enough to express her opinions in writing and, lastly, to be a woman during medieval times was a formidable challenge since women had almost no rights or privileges. The main intentions of Hidegard of Bingen were to praise God. Her works were accepted since they pleased popes, bishops, kings and, as the result, the clergy popularized her accomplishments. Hidegard of Bingen used curative powers of natural recourses to heal people. She also wrote treatises about the natural history.
At around 1300, Gitto and his pupils revived still life flower painting which was dedicated to fictional or spiritual themes, showed daily objects and was mostly made on walls. Painters such as Jan van Eyck partially employed still life features in his iconographic program. Jan van Eyck is famous for the invention of oil painting technique. Around 1495 Leonardo da Vinci developed water color studies of fruits extracts. Albert Durer also produced drawings of fauna and flora.
In the sixteenth century natural objects such as still life flower painting begun to be appreciated. In the seventeenth century still life flower painting was gaining popularity. Nonetheless, there were few women painters among them there were such notable examples as Fede Galizia, Giovanna Garzoni, Maria Theresa van Thielen and Laura Bernascolin. The 18th century saw an increase in professional women artists such as Elisabeth Louise Vigeee Le Brun. Due to multiple circumstances there were imposed restrictions and and even ban on female painting activities. Also, during the 18th century Rosalba Carriera, Marie-Louise and Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun became internationally renowned for their work.