“Artemisia Gentileschi and Her Time” Exhibit in Rome

One of the great tragedies of art history is that there have been so few successful female artists over the centuries. The combination of social mores, domestic responsibilities, and institutional obstacles meant that talented women were forced to channel their creative energy into more “female” arts, leaving painting, sculpture, and architecture to generations of studio-trained men.

Gentileschi judith1.jpg
By Artemisia Gentileschi - http://artchive.com/artchive/G/gentileschi/gent_judith.jpg.html, Public Domain, Link


One of the most interesting exceptions is Artemisia Gentilischi, the 17th century Baroque painter who is known for her dramatic, expressive style which was heavily influenced by Caravaggio, and the subject of the “Artemisia Gentileschi and Her Time” exhibit in Rome's Museo di Roma in Palazzo Braschi, open now until May 7th, 2017.

Daughter of the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentilischi, Artemisia had the rare opportunity to study painting in her father's studio and showed remarkable talent from a very young age. She became a successful and respected artist during her lifetime, and was the first woman to be accepted into Florence's prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing). Her circle included Galileo Galilei, Michelangleo Buonarroti the Younger, nephew of Michelangelo, who commissioned her to decorate his uncle's elegant Palazzo Buonarroti with a frescoed ceiling, and the Medicis.

Susanna and the Elders (1610), Artemisia Gentileschi.jpg
By Artemisia Gentileschi - Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, Link


During her long career, which included periods in Florence, Rome, Genoa, Venice, Naples, and even London, where she worked in the court of Charles I, Artemisia painted religious scenes and portraits which were groundbreaking in their realism and emotional charge. Many art historians conjecture that the experience of being raped by a family friend and artist with whom she studied, Agostino Tassi, coupled with the subsequent long public trial of her rapist, influenced of her bold, defiant, and often violent depictions of women.

Artemisia Gentileschi - Judith Beheading Holofernes - WGA8563.jpg
By Artemisia Gentileschi - Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, Link


Certainly her most famous work, “Judith Slaying Holofernes”, on loan from the Uffizi for the exhibit, leaves viewers breathless with its blood-soaked scene, though her “Self-Portrait as a Lute Player” depicts the artist as a self-possessed, confident woman, successful in an age when female artists were rare.

Artemisia Gentileschi - Self-Portrait as a Lute Player.JPG
By Artemisia Gentileschi - http://www.thehistoryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Artemisia-Gentileschi-Self-Portrait-as-a-Lute-Player-c.-1616–18.jpg
or scan of painting: http://books0977.tumblr.com/post/67566293964/self-portrait-as-a-lute-player, Public Domain, Link


“Artemisia Gentileschi and Her Time” includes about 100 paintings by Gentilischi and her contemporaries, and is an excellent opportunity to see some of the most important works by this singular female painter alongside those by artists who influenced her and artists who she, in turn, influenced.

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Contributor: Rebecca Winke

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