Art

Who was Timarete?

Timarete, also known as Thamyris, Thamar and Tamaris was an ancient Greek painter who lived in 5th century BC. She is considered the first documented female painter in history.

Today, we know very little about her. It is believed that she was born in Athens, since she was the daughter of the painter Micon the Younger, of Athens.

Detail of a miniature of Thamyris (Timarete) painting her picture of the goddess Diana, N. France,(Rouen) 15th century .
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She is one of the six female artists of antiquity mentioned in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, in addition to the discussion on the origins of painting and sculpture in the classical world. He provides no biographical information, nor historical. The only thing mentioned about Timarete was that she “scorned the duties of women and practised her father’s art”. She is also mentioned later in Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris.

Miniature of Boccaccio’s book that shows Timarete working on a painting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She would have painted with wax and tempera, creating portraits and still lifes on wooden panels. At the time of Archelaus I of Macedon, she was especially known for her panel painting of the goddess Artemis that was kept at Ephesus, where had a particular reverence for this goddess. Although this panel no longer exists, it was preserved in Ephesus for many years.

Miniature of Boccaccio’s book that shows Timarete painting
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Curiosities:

  • She is mentioned in Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party; her name is on the Heritage Floor (related place setting – Sappho).
  • Timarete’s marble tombstone (stele) is on British Museum’s collection.

References:

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