The Getty’s new Illuminating Women Artists series aims to shed light on worthy women painters, sculptors, and other artists who have long been relegated to oblivion or have been viewed in contexts where men were central. Like the Neuf Preuses, the late medieval cycle of nine women belatedly introduced alongside the Neuf Preux to embody military virtue, women artists step onto equal footing with their male counterparts in the Getty’s project. Inaugurating the series is Luisa Roldán, on the early modern Spanish sculptor (1652– 1706) who specialized in polychromed wooden statues and small polychromed terracotta groups.
Author Catherine Hall-van den Elsen is perhaps the foremost expert on Luisa Roldán, and the Getty volume fully reflects her colossal erudition. The author presents Luisa as a strong, independent woman from the very first lines of the introduction, opening with the nineteen-year-old’s statement of intent to marry despite her father ’s disapproval (11).