Let’s talk Greek. Women could not be citizens, vote, or own property. They weren’t even important enough to be included in the census counts. Lower class women could be sold by their male relatives to other men as slaves. Fun fact: the Greeks believed menstrual blood would sour wine and make dogs become rabid. Sounds super sciencey. It is remarkable, given this misogyny and oppression, that there were any ancient Greek women artists at all. But women are badass and there were successful women making beautiful art whenever they took a break from making dogs lose their minds. They painted and sculpted, ran workshops, and taught.
Helena of Egypt was one of these remarkable women. Sadly, very little is known about her. She lived and worked in Egypt during the 4th century BCE. Her father, Timon, was also an artist and her instructor when she began creating art. The one work that is known to be hers is a wall painting depicting the defeat of Darius III by Alexander the Great. “Alexander the Great Confronts Darius III at the Battle of Issus” would have been lost forever, but it was so admired that a mosaic reproduction was done in Pompeii and later found and preserved. Her other works have not survived.
Helena and her female cohorts didn’t let an ignorant and shitty pluto-patriarchy get them down. They made awesome art in a difficult and oppressive environment. They are an inspiration to us as we enter into a new era of misogyny, racism, and stupidity.