Since the beginning of the Women’s Wednesday column, we had the chance to tell many captivating stories of goddesses, queens, maidens, and warriors. Today, for the first time ever, we introduce a painter: Thamyris, said to be the first documented female painter in history.
Thamyris (or Timarete) was one of the six ancient female artists to be mentioned in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History: to this document we owe the little information we have about her. Thamyris was of Greek origins and her father was a certain Micon of Athens; there being two different painters named Micon who belonged to two distinctive centuries, historians had trouble confirming that Thamyris’ father was Micon the Younger, who lived in Athens in the 5th century BC.
In the De Mulieriubus Claris, Boccaccio explains how the maiden had rejected the usual duties that came with womanhood and concentrated instead on following her father’s footsteps in art. At the time of Archelaus I of Macedon, she was especially known for her panel painting of the goddess Artemis that was kept in Ephesus, an ancient Greek city. Although this panel no longer exists, the tales of Thamyris’ talent survived the passing of time.
“Thamyris”, illumination from the manuscript “Cas des nobles hommes et femmes”, ms. Français 12420, f. 86r, 15h century, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Paris.