Juana Romani (born Carolina Carlesimo, 30 April 1867) was an Italian painter known for her realism and unique sense of style. She settled in the Latin Quarter, Paris around age ten with her mother and stepfather, Temistocle Romani, which allowed Juana opportunities to work at several art schools as a model to various artists. This continued till the day Filippo Colarossi, founder of the Académie Colarossi, invited her to study at the school which in turn lead to her posing for “Diana the Huntress”, a well-known sculpture/statue by Alexandre Falguiere.
Juana posed for many artists and became known as "II Romani" before deciding to pursue her own art career at nineteen. Later that year she changed her first name to “Juana” the Spanish version of her middle name “Giovanni” and began producing her own paintings. She began to exhibit her work shortly after at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Francois regularly from 1888 until 1904. Also, in 1901 she donated 5,000 lire to her hometown art school which was later renamed the "Scuola D'Arte Juana Romani".
Juana was especially valued as a female portrait painter. She painted many women from notable families, often depicting them as mythological or symbolic figures and was a highly sought-after portrait artist with one of her portraits being awarded a silver medal at the Exposition Universelle (1889). Despite being a female artist, Juana got on better then most with art critics and in 1889 art critic Louis Gonse of Le Monde Moderne declared that Juana’s work was more skillful than that of her mentor Ferdinand Victor Leon Roybet.
Juana usually painted directly onto her canvas without the need for sketching beforehand and was so popular that most of her works sold before she had finished painting them. Unfortunately, Juana’s art career came to an end around 1904 with Juana succumbing to hallucinations and bouts of ill-health increased by the deaths of close friend Jean-Jacques Henner in 1905 and her mother’s death in 1909. Not long after Juana was committed to a asylum till her death in 1924, however the appreciation for her artwork still lives on and many works can be viewed at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, France.
1. Juana Romani - Dark Haired Beauty, 57.1x83.8cm, Oil on Panel, Private Collection
2. Juana Romani – Joan of Arc, 39.5 x 31.5 inches, Oil on Panel Shaffer Art Gallery, Syracuse University.