Artemesia Gentileschi (1593 – 1652/53)
This is my 7th installment in my weekly Women in Art series.
Why do we need to set the record straight? Artemesia fell into obscurity after her death, even though she was one of the first female artists to paint more than the traditional portraits – she actually painted major historical and religious scenarios. The Medici family collected her work. Michelangelo Buonnarti the Younger (the more famous Michelangelo’s nephew) helped her start her career in Florence. She was friends with Galileo. But, after her death, many of her paintings were thought to have been done by her father, Orazio Gentleschi, from whom she received early training.
Her technical abilities were beyond reproach. The following painting was done when she was but 16 or 17 years of age.
When she was not allowed to study in the art academies of the time her father arranged for a friend of his, Agostino Tassi, to teach her. In 1612 her father brought charges of rape against Tassi that resulted in a seven month trial. During the trial it was found that Tazzi planned on murdering his wife, planned to steal some of Orazio’s painting and was having sex with his sister-in-law. Can you believe that? He was sentenced to either a year in prison or banishment – neither of which was carried out.
After the trial, Artemisia’s father married her off and she moved to Florence. In Florence, she was the first woman accepted into the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno.
This is a painting that was attributed to her father for awhile – but it is the first known signed painting by Artemisia. The story is of a virtuous Susanna being sexually harrassed by the elders in the community. Most male painters approached this with a flirtatious and coy Susanna. But, you can see Artemisia shows her scared, upset and vulnerable. Was she our first feminist painter?
This painting was possibly inspired by an earlier painting by Caravaggio. But Artemisia’s depiction is must more bloodier and graphic. (see Caravaggio’s below – not nearly as bloody)
To read the story of Judith Slaying Holofernes – click here
This is a scene after Holofernes is beheaded and they are attempting escape. One interesting thing that is very hard to see online – Judith has an ornament in her hair that is a picture of a man with a lance – was it possibly David, who decapitated Goliath? Scholars believe it is a homage to Michelangelo’s statue of David.
This is considered a self-portrait. In fact, alot of her paintings were self-portraits.
There is must more to know about her life – she even joined her father in London in 1638 into the court of Charles I.
For more information about her life – here are some more references: