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Category: Names from the Arts & Pop Culture

by Annie New

Looking for an artistic baby name?

As an art history student, I spent three years studying the biographies, influences and techniques of artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Eduard Manet, and Rembrandt. But it’s the names of the people they painted that are also of interest to name nerds like me.

Art history’s most famous models just happened to have some intriguing names as well as beauty and charm. With appellations ranging from Ginevra to Adele to Simonetta, the collection is as varied and cosmopolitan as today’s popularity lists. Let’s take a look.

Artistic Baby Names: Muses

AdeleGustav Klimt’s ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer’, often called ‘The Austrian Mona Lisa,” has been a national symbol of Austria for many years. The story goes that Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer learned about his wife and Klimt having an affair and asked the artist to paint her portrait, thinking he would have to spend so much time with Adele that he would get sick of her. True or not, Klimt’s muse had a gorgeous name that still sounds fresh and appealing almost a century later. Modern parents tend to associate Adele with the British singer; it now ranks at #898.

Camille Camille Doncieux was the first wife of Claude Monet and the mother of his two children as well as his favorite model. The most famous portrait of her is probably ‘Woman with a Parasol’, which is representative of Monet and impressionism in many ways. Camille is a unisex name in its native France, where notable bearers include the composer Saint-Saëns and fellow painters Corot and Pissarro. In the English-speaking world Camille is generally feminine, largely due to the association with Alexandre Dumas’ The Lady of the Camellias.  More recently Camille Preaker is the main character in Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. Camille is on the upswing, currently at #252 in the US, #19 in France.

Ginevra – The only painting by Leonardo da Vinci publicly displayed in the Americas is a portrait of the Florentine aristocrat Ginevra de’ Benci. Ginevra is believed to be either an Italian form of Guinevere or a completely unrelated nature name meaning “juniper.” Incidentally, it’s a juniper bush that fills much of the background of the portrait. The lovely Ginevra might appeal to parents looking for a fresher, more artistic baby name alternative to Jennifer, and who appreciate the Harry Potter connection via Ron’s younger sister Ginny Weasley.

IdaIda Rubinstein was not merely Valentin Serov’s muse but a prominent public figure on her own, an actress and dancer as well as an art patron. Serov’s famous portrait depicts Ida as Salomé in a legendary performance of in which she stripped nude during the course of the Dance of the Seven Veils. Ida is the main character in Tennyson’s poem ‘The Princess’ which inspired Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera ‘Princess Ida’. Off the SSA list since 1980, Ida could yet follow the return of names like Ava and Ada. It is currently popular in Germany and Sweden.

Olympia – The woman depicted in Edouard Manet’s scandalous nude painting wasn’t actually an Olympia; she was named VictorineLouise Meurent– Olympia was a name associated with courtesans in 1860s Paris. However, it’s high time to overlook this association and bring Olympia back. It’s a name with impressive historic pedigree – Alexander the Great’s mother was called Olympia, and the Olympic Games were originally held in the small Greek town of Olympia. Olympia might be a great option for people wary of the super popular Olivia. Serena Williams named her daughter Alexis Olympia.

Saskia – Rembrandt van Rijn drew Saskia van Uylenburgh for the first time just three days after their engagement and continued to do so throughout their marriage. This exotic name is already enjoying some popularity in the UK, having been introduced there by the actress Saskia Reeves and it’s currently #284 on Nameberry. Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker has a sister called Saskia – talk about swoon-worthy real life sibsets!

Simonetta Sandro Botticelli’s legendary Venus is believed to be a portrait of Italian noblewoman Simonetta Vespucci, who was considered an exceptional beauty in Florence. She died at the age of twenty-two, but her name lived on, reaching Rome’s Top 10 in the 1950s. This diminutive of Simona would be a perfect way to honor a baby’s Uncle Simon or a family’s Italian roots.

So you have another artist muse name you like?

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Annie New is an international lawyer and translator who currently lives in Europe . She speaks five languages and is a feminist, a bookworm and a big fan of Monty Python. A Berry since 2013, she’s been a moderator for almost two years.

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