TRAVERSE CITY — Jane Fortune never imagined her book would inspire a PBS television special, must less an award-winning one.
But on June 1 the documentary “Invisible Women” won a regional Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, guaranteeing that it will be shown by PSB stations all over the country.
Fortune, co-owner of the Lake Leelanau restaurant Bella Fortuna North, lives part-time in Florence, Italy, where she is cultural editor of The Florentine, Tuscany’s English language newspaper. She also is the founder and chair of Advancing Women Artists, a nonprofit organization dedicated to researching, restoring and exhibiting works by women artists from around the Renaissance period — works that languish in Florence’s “deposits,” or museum storages.
“My focus is really more 15th- through 18th-century art by women in Florence,” said Fortune, who grew up in Indianapolis but summered in Leelanau County. “They really had no rights. They couldn’t go to art school, they couldn’t join a guild. If they did paint, they were usually daughters of men who were very famous painters, and in those cases, most times the signature would be that of the man.”
Her research and restoration efforts, funded by her nonprofit, are the focus of her book “Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence.” In it, she highlights all the works of early women artists, that can be seen on the walls of the Florence Museum and a few others, as well as works that haven’t been seen in centuries. Among the most important is a masterpiece by Baroque master Artemisia Gentelschi, whose “David and Bathsheba” Fortune discovered after it was in storage for 363 years.
“It was in deplorable condition,” said Fortune, who worked with women restorers to consolidate the painting’s remaining color and improve the composition’s legibility, lowering the missing pieces of paint with neutral tones in order to obtain an image that is recomposed rather than repainted.