“I know truly most excellent Lady, that these first fruits of mine, flawed as they are, cannot produce the effect that I desire, which would be in addition to providing some evidence of my devotion to Your Excellency, also to show the world the futile error of men who believe themselves patrons of the high gifts of intellect, which according to them cannot also be held in the same way by women. Because of all this, I did not wish to fail to publish them, hoping that in Your Excellency’s bright name they would achieve such light as might kindle some other, higher talent to succeed more clearly in that which except for the spirit, I have not been able to show.”
from Your Excellency’s most humble servant, Maddalena Casulana
Venice, April 10, 1568

Thus did Maddalena Casulana, the first woman to have her compositions published, throw down this gauntlet in her dedication to her patron Isabella de’ Medici. To succeed at all, women composing during the Baroque period needed good family connections and a generous patron. Yet even this did not ensure their works were publicly performed or published.

An oil painting...