Paper Sculptures of Notable Women of Venice by Patty Grazini

Each autumn for the past ten years, paper artist Patty Grazini has introduced a collection based on historical figures at Curtis Steiner Gallery in Seattle. This year's show is titled Tributes/Reliquaries Based on Notable Women of Venice 1450-1755. Lest you think that sounds textbook-dry, put the thought away... Patty's work is fascinating. I'm delighted she wrote to share how she went about creating these remarkably detailed objects.

paper sculpture gloves in case and breastplate with necklace
Veronica Franco (1546-1591) 
a well known courtesan, writer and poet who was intelligent, witty and beautiful

Patty selected ten notable Venetian woman who were well known during their time. She says, "Many have left a significant mark in history, but are nearly forgotten except by the proud Venetians. The women lived in a span of 300 years, between 1450 and 1750, during the long decline of the Venetian Empire, an age of extreme decadence and beauty."

Paper Sculpture - Veronica Franco (1546-1591) 2
gloves - detail

"I wanted to create memorials that were reminiscent of the church reliquaries I saw while traveling in Italy, and installed these personal items as though they were holy relics thus honoring the women for their accomplishments. Although every part is made solely with paper, they appear to be constructed of precious metals made opulent with jewels and stones. Each piece is accompanied by a small book with a quote by the Venetian woman or one of her contemporaries."

Paper Sculpture Elena Cornaro Piscopia (1646-1684)
Elena Cornaro Piscopia 1646-1684
the first woman in the world to earn a doctorate degree
her glasses and inkwell

Patty put an immense amount of research and thought into selecting a theme before beginning the collection, which took much of the year to create. She began by studying Venetian history in order to replicate the time period as accurately as possible.

Paper Sculpture Crown 2
Caterina Cornaro (1454-1510)
betrothed at a very young age to the king of Cypress and crowned the last queen of Cypress 

Patty found a portrait of all but two of the women, which helps to make them even more relatable.

Paper Sculpture Crown
paper crown modeled after a portrait painted of Catarina by Titian

She is constantly on the lookout for unusual papers, and saves an abundance of wrappers, paper bags and discarded pieces.

Paper Sculpture - Loredana Marcello Mocenigo (1570-1577)
Loredana Marcello Mocenigo (1570-1577)
a writer and botanist

"Much of the paper is from old books that I purchased in a San Francisco antique shop. Friends gave me some beautiful hand marbled paper that they had made several years ago. Also, I was lucky to be able to purchase some in Venice and Bologna."

Paper Sculpture - Rosalba Carriera-(1773-1857) 2
Rosalba Carriera -1673-1757
an artist who painted portraits of nobility throughout Europe

tragically lost her eyesight toward the end of her life

Patty often worked with gold paper, first distressing it with inks to create a tarnished patina. A wood burning tool was used to burn or notch the edges of the paper and to create holes.

Paper Sculpture - Rosalba Carriera-(1773-1857) 3
a portrait painted by Rosalba - detail

"I had never made jewels before... the marbled paper was perfect for this. The little stones look very real, thanks to the use of various glazes that provide depth and shine. One of my favorite finishes turned out to be a glaze used in making faux stained glass windows. It has a lot of body, without destroying the paper."

Paper Sculpture - Rosalba Carriera-(1773-1857)
Rosalba's brush and box - detail 

Patty is already thinking about her next show for which she may continue making jewels and jewelry, perhaps with a connection to art and paintings.

Paper Sculpture - Arcangela Tarabotti (1604-1652)
Arcangela Tarabotti (1604-1652)
wrote openly about the unfair practice of forcing women to live as nuns, against their wills
She was born the eldest of six daughters, and born lame. Her father didn't want to spend his fortunes on her dowry as the cost would have been extremely high because of her disability, so she was placed in a convent.

Lucky enough to be in Seattle? The entire collection is on display at Curtis Steiner Gallery, 5349 Ballard Avenue NW, Seattle WA 98107, until December 22. After that date, sold items may be retrieved in time to be placed under the Christmas tree.

Paper Sculpture Moderta Fonte (1555-1592)
Moderta Fonte (1555-1592) 
leading feminist and writer

Enjoy previous collections by Patty Grazini: here, here, here and here.

Ann Martin
Ann Martin

This is a short biography of the post author and you can replace it with your own biography.


  1. It is indeed a wonderful show. I love going to the opening nights for her pieces and go back several more times during December.

    1. Hi Karin! I envy you... would love to see Patty's work in person.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to cover this breathtaking body of work. Patty is truly talented and blessed! Amazing artist need and deserve support...

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed seeing Patty's art, Lorie.

  3. Unbelievable!! They don't look like paper at all. truly an amazing artist.


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