Orsola Maddalena Caccia
The Nativity of Christ
- Orsola Maddalena Caccia, born Theodora Caccia (Italian, 1596–1676)
- Oil on canvas
- Galleria di Palazzo Bianco, Genoa
Fruit and Flowers
- Suor Orsola Maddalena Caccia (Italian, 1596–1676)
- Oil on canvas, 30 × 39 in. (76.2 × 99.1 cm)
- ca. 1630
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Like many of the earliest known women painters of the Renaissance, Orsola Maddalena Caccia (1596–1676) was a nun. She was born Theodora Caccia; she adopted the name Orsola Maddalena when she took her vows as an Ursuline sister. Later she, along with her five sisters, joined a convent founded by their father, painter Guglielmo Caccia, in Moncalvo. Of the six Caccia sisters, only Orsola Maddalena and Francesca were painters.
Orsola Maddalena learned to paint by working as her father’s assistant. Later she organized a painting studio at the convent where she eventually became abbess. She took on students and assistants, and to an extent supported the convent by taking commissions.
As far as we know, no paintings by Francesca Caccia survive. But a number of works by Orsola Maddalena still exist today, many in the area of Italy where she lived and worked. These paintings include the Nativity featured here; Birth of the Virgin; St. Luke the Evangelist in the Studio; The Birth of John the Baptist; and several other religious works. She also painted still lifes with flowers and birds. She is said to have helped bring the genre of still life painting to Northwestern Italy.
In 2020, a collector bequeathed three paintings by the artist to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As a result of this bequest, The Met now boasts the largest collection of works by the Mannerist painter-nun outside the artist’s native Italy.
Recent and upcoming exhibitions featuring Orsola Maddalena Caccia:
The Wadsworth Atheneum and the Detroit Institute of Arts are collaborating to present “By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800.” The show capitalizes on the strong presence of Italian Renaissance and Baroque women artists in American and European collections. The organizers’ intent is to introduce to the public a “diverse and dynamic” group of female Old Masters, including not only Orsola Maddalena Caccia, but also Lavinia Fontana; Elisabetta Sirani; Artemisia Gentileschi; court artist Sofonisba Anguissola; and other talented, but now virtually unknown, women artists. Because of the pandemic, the exhibition has been postponed; dates are tentative, but it is likely to open in Hartford on September 30, 2021; and in Detroit on February 6, 2022.
At Milan’s Palazzo Reale in Spring 2021, the exhibition Le Signore dell’Arte. Storie di donne tra ’500 e ’600 celebratedthe art and the extraordinary lives of 34 different women artists, including Orsola Maddalena Caccia, as well as Lavinia Fontana, Elisabetta Sirani, Giovanna Garzoni, Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Ginevra Cantofoli, Fede Galizia, and more. It will showcase some 150 paintings from no fewer than 67 different lenders, including many Italian museums; the Musée des Beaux Arts in Marseille; and Muzeum Narodowe in Poznan, Poland.
Learn more online about Orsola Maddalena Caccia at:
Suor Orsola Maddalena Caccia, (1596–1676), Convent Artist, guest post by Angela Ghirardi
Artnet: Explore >
The National Museum of Women in the Arts: Explore >
Web Gallery of Art: Explore >