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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi

‘Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian Baroque painter, in an era when the artistic community and patrons did not readily accept female painters. She was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia in Florence. Artemisia specialised in painting pictures of women from myths, allegories, and the Bible.

Gentileschi, notoriety as a woman painter in the seventeenth century, her rape and her courage in the prosecution of her rapist, overshadowed her artistic achievements. Fortunately, today, her art is recognised as one of the most progressive and expressive painters of her generation.

A Tour of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Art

  • Judith Slaying Holofernes
    • “Judith Slaying Holofernes” by Artemisia Gentileschi depicts the beheading of an Assyrian general by an Israelite heroine, as recorded in the apocryphal Book of Judith in the Old Testament. In the story, the Assyrian General Holofernes who lusts after Judith, a beautiful widow, invites her to his tent. Holofernes was planning to destroy the city of Bethulia, which was Judith’s home. Thus Judith, with the help of her servant, killed the general by decapitation while the general was drunk and passed out.

      The painting shows the moment when Judith, helped by her maidservant, starts to behead the general. He has just woken from his drunken sleep to realise he is being killed. The scene of Judith beheading Holofernes was popular in art since the early Renaissance. It is part of the group of subjects, that art critics have called the “Power of Women”, which show women triumphing over powerful men. Museum: Uffizi Gallery

  • Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting
    • “Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting” by Artemisia Gentileschi was painted by the artist, during her visit to London in 1638, where she had been invited by Charles I. Gentileschi holds a brush in one hand and a palette in the other, cleverly identifying herself as a female painter. In 1630 she would have been in her mid-thirties, which corresponds with the apparent age in the present picture.

      Artemisia wears a brown apron over her green dress and seems to be leaning on a stone slab used for grinding pigments. The brown space in front of her is a canvas on which she is about to paint. The position of the fingers of her right hand are different in the infra-red reflectography and x-radiography, it shows she chooses to lengthen her index finger.

      Artemisia’s portraits were in demand with seventeenth-century collectors, who were attracted by artistic abilities and her status as a female artist.  This portrait shows her skilful visualisation in the composition of herself in the act of painting with its challenging pose, the angle and position of her head all rendered confidently. Museum:  Royal Collection

Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting

  • Title:                         Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting
  • Artist:                       Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Year:                         1639
  • Medium:                  Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions              Height: 98.6 cm (38.8 ″); Width: 75.2 cm (29.6 ″)
  • Museum:                  Royal Collection

Artemisia Gentileschi

Tour of the Women in the Arts

Artemisia Gentileschi Quotes

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“As long as I live I will have control over my being.”
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“My illustrious lordship, I’ll show you what a woman can do.”

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“You will find the spirit of Caesar in this soul of a woman,”

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“I have made a solemn vow never to send my drawings because people have cheated me. In particular, just today I found… that, having done a drawing of souls in Purgatory for the Bishop of St. Gata, he, in order to spend less, commissioned another painter to do the painting using my work. If I were a man, I can’t imagine it would have turned out this way.”

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“They come to a woman with this kind of talent, that is, to vary the subjects in my painting; never has anyone found in my pictures any repetition of invention, not even of one hand.”

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“You will find the spirit of Caesar in this soul of a woman,”
– Artemisia Gentileschi

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Photo Credit: Artemisia Gentileschi [Public domain]

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