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Artemisia Gentileschi

Self portrait as the Allegory of Painting, Artemisia Gentileschi
The first woman to become a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of Fine Arts)

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656) was an Italian Baroque painter, considered one of the best artists of his time. She was her father’s apprentice in Rome. In 1611, Agostino Tassi, the painter of her father, raped Artemisia, and then promised her marriage to ensure the continuation of their love. The promise was not kept, and nine months after the rape, Orazio Gentileschi  (Artemisia’s father) filed a lawsuit against Tassi, who was sentenced to a year in prison after a seven-month trial.

Artemisia later married the painter Pierantonio Stiattesi and settled in Florence, where she had a steep career. She became the Medici’s beloved court painter and became the first woman to become a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of Fine Arts). However, still she had problems to face. Her marriage broke down, and in 1621 she returned to Rome.

In 1630, she settled in Naples and lived there until the end of her life, except for a period of stay in England when she again worked with her father, who became a court painter to Charles I in 1638. In 1639, Orazio died and Artemisia returned to Naples.

Almost all of Artemisia’s works feature female protagonists (preferably Biblical figures). They are characterized by courage, determination, and strong character, rather than by feminine traits of sensitivity and weakness. Above all, her work, Judith Slaying Holofernes, is a painting of bloody anguish and horror. She painted it in several variations, but that of the Uffizi is the most impressive. She was most likely inspired by memories of a recent rape.

Rauda Jamis wrote a fictional biography about her: Artemisia, ou, La renommée (Artemisia or The Famous, 1990).

The film Artemisia (1997) depicts the life of the artist.

Source Image:
“Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting” by Artemisia Gentileschi. 1638–39. (Photo: Wikipedia, Public domain)

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