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Signora Ortensia Leoni Cordini as Saint Dorothy

Signora Ortensia Leoni Cordini as Saint Dorothy

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Elisabetta Sirani

The twenty-three-year-old painter Elisabetta Sirani portrayed the Bolognese noblewoman Ortensia Leoni Cordini as the fourth-century virgin martyr Saint Dorothy of Caesarea. Cordini is holding the saint’s attribute: a basket of apples and roses. The choice of saint reflects her virtue; Dorothy was tortured and executed by the Roman emperor Diocletian for her unwavering Christian faith. This portrait was commissioned by the sitter’s husband, the Florentine Francesco Cordini. Sirani prominently signed and dated the painting on the neckline of the sitter’s dress, asserting her authorship and her claim to the status granted to history painters in Italy at that time—a recognition rarely granted to female artists.
Elisabetta Sirani
(Italian, 1638 - 1665)
Signora Ortensia Leoni Cordini as Saint Dorothy
Oil on canvas
23 1/8 x 19 5/8 in. Overall
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Marc B. Rojtman
Accession No.


By 1956, collection of Miss G. Bulteel (London, England); 25 July 1956, sold at Sotheby’s London auction (lot 166) to Dent [an art dealer] (London, England); by 1960, purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Marc B. Rojtman (Milwaukee, WI); December 1960, gifted to the University of Wisconsin–Madison; 1967, transferred to the Elvehjem Art Center [now called Chazen Museum of Art]

  • Modesti, Adelina. "Elisabetta Sirani ‘Virtuosa’: Women’s Cultural Production in Early Modern Bologna." Turnhout, Belgium : Brepols, 2014. pp. 285-287, no. 62; pl. 20
  • Bentini, Jadranka and Vera Fortunati, eds., "Elisabetta Sirani, Pittrice Eroina 1638-1665", Bologna, Museo Civico Archeologico, December 4, 2004-April 10, 2005, Bologna: Editrice Compositori, 2004. pp. 27, 112,116, 201-202, 46, Cat no. 48
  • Modesti, Adelina. "Elisabetta Sirani: Una virtuosa del Seicento Bolognese." Bologna: Editrice Compositori, 2004 pp. 110-111, 145, no. 57, fig. 51
  • Pulini, Massimo. "Ginevra Cantofoli", Bologna: Editrice Compositori, 2006.
  • Modesti, Adelina. "Elisabetta Sirani, 'pittrice eroina' 1638-1665." Bologna: Editrice Compositori via Stalingrado, 2004.
  • Chazen Museum of Art. "Bulletin 2003-2007." Madison: Chazen Museum of Art, 2010. pp. 7, 12-13, no. 1, 1-6
  • Bohn, Babette. "Elisabetta Sirani's Signora Ortensia Leoni Cordini as St. Dorothy." Bulletin 2003-2007. Chazen Museum of Art (2010): 6-10. pp. 6-10, no. 1
  • Saffiotti Dale, Maria. "Technical Note: Conservation Summary of Sirani's Signora Ortensia Leoni Cordini as St. Dorothy." Bulletin 2003-2007. Chazen Museum of Art (2010): 11-13. pp. 11-13, no. 6
  • Chazen Museum of Art. "Artscene." Vol. 22, No. 3, August-December 2005. p. 4
  • Elvehjem Museum of Art. "Artscene." Vol. 8, No. 1, January /February/ March 1992. p. 6
  • Bohn, Babette. "Women Artists, Their Patrons, and Their Publics in Early Modern Bologna." University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2021 pp. 10, 81-83, 149, 259, back cover, fig. 45
  • Carlo Cesare Malvasia. "Felsina pittrice: Vite d' pittori bolognesi." With additions by Giampietro Zanotti, et al. Vol. 2. Bologna: Tipografia Guidi all'Ancora, 1841 p. 396
  • Giovanni Luigi Piccinardi. La poesia muta celebrata dalla pittura loquace, applausi di nobili ingegni al pennello immortale della Signora Elisabetta Sirani pittrice bolognese. Bologna: Evangelista Dozza, 1666 p. 13
  • Dominic Ferrante with Robert B. Simon. "Elisabetta Sirani: Maestra of Baroque Bologna." exh. cat. New York: Robert Simon Fine Art, 2023. pp. 6-11, fig. 1

  • Faculty Exhibition 2020: Chazen Museum of Art, 2/1/2020–7/31/2020
  • Portraits in Western Art: Seventeenth to Twentieth Centuries: Chazen Museum of Art, 2/22/2013–3/17/2013
  • Restoring a Baroque Painting: Sirani's "Signora Ortensia Leoni Cordini as Saint : Chazen Museum of Art, 11/1/2005–11/30/2005
  • Elisabetta Sirani "pittrice eroina" 1638-1665 : Museo Civico Archaeologico de Bologna, 12/4/2004–4/10/2005

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