Siren spotting: An artist and a warrior? Honorata Rodiana (1403–1452)
She was an Italian painter born near Castelleone, a province of Cremona. She got her first commission to do frescoes in the palace of a local wealthy patron. She did this in a time when most women were not allowed to paint, and if they did learn to paint, they were not allowed to make money at it. For her to get the commission for something as physically and technically difficult as affresco, says a lot about who this gal was.
One day while she was working up on the scaffold, one of the younger courtiers harassed her indecently. Today we would call it sexual harassment in the work place. She ignored him as long as she could until his little boy ego got damaged and he got angry with her. His harassment escalated to violence and she defended herself by stabbing him dead. She fled the city in a disguise and it wasn't until many years later when she was pardoned by a wealthy patron that she could come back and finish her work.
However she didn’t sit around waiting for that pardon. She entered service as a mercenary soldier in 1423 and did this “unknown to all with her name and clothing changed”. In the History of Castelleone written in 1590, it says that she was a cross-dressing spy during times of war. Gender fluid maybe? And it seems she may have found stabbing to be almost as fulfilling as painting...
Whenever she wasn’t fighting, she went back to painting gigs. We don’t really know if she was a painter and a hobby fighter, or a fighter and a hobby painter. She was considered a heroine when she died in a conflict in her hometown at 49 years of age. Yeah, we kind of like her.
xo, Jacci & Laura