Artemisia Gentileschi – Italian 1593-1653

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait
Self Portrait
Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome, on July 8, 1593, the first child of the painter Orazio Gentileschi and one of the greatest representatives of the school of Caravaggio. Artemisia was introduced to painting in her father's workshop, showing much more talent than her brothers, who worked alongside her. She learned drawing, how to mix color and how to paint. Since her father's style took inspiration from Caravaggio during that period, her style was just as heavily influenced in turn.

The first work of the young 17-years old Artemisia (even if many suspect that she was helped by her father) was the Susanna e i Vecchioni (Susanna and the Elders&) (1610), located in the Schönborn collection in Pommersfelden. The picture shows how, under parental guidance, Artemisia assimilated the realism of Caravaggio without being indifferent to the language of the Bologna school (which had Annibale Carracci among its major artists).

In 1612, despite her early talent, Artemisia was denied access to the all-male professional academies for art. At the time, her father was working with Agostino Tassi to decorate the volte of Casino della Rose inside the Pallavicini Rospigliosi Palace in Rome, so Orazio hired the Tuscan painter to tutor his daughter privately. The unfortunate effect was that Artemisia was raped by Tassi. Even though Tassi initially promised to marry Artemisia in order to restore her reputation, he later reneged on his promise and Orazio reported Tassi to the authorities.

In the ensuing seven-month trial, it was discovered that Tassi had planned to murder his wife, had committed incest with his sister-in-law and planned to steal some of Orazio’s paintings. During the trial Artemisia was given a gynecological examination and was tortured using a device made of thongs wrapped around the fingers and tightened by degrees— a particularly cruel torture to a painter. Both procedures were used to corroborate the truth of her allegation, the torture device in the belief that if a person can tell the same story under torture as without it, the story must be true.
Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait
Self Portrait
At the end of the trial Tassi was imprisoned for just one year. The trial has subsequently influenced the feminist view of Artemisia Gentileschi during the 20th century

The painting representing Giuditta che decapita Oloferne (Judith decapitating Holofernes) (1612-13), displayed in the Capodimonte Museum of Naples, is impressive for the violence portrayed, and was interpreted as a wish for psychological revenge for the violence Artemisia had suffered.

One month after the trial, in order to restore her honor, Orazio arranged for his daughter to marry Pierantonio Stiattesi, a modest artist from Florence. Shortly afterwards the couple moved to Florence, where Artemisia received a commission for a painting at Casa Buonarroti and became a successful court painter, enjoying the patronage of the Medici and Charles I. During this period, Artemisia also painted the Madonna col Bambino (The Virgin Mary with Baby), currently in the Spada Gallery, Rome.

Whilst in Florence, Artemisia and Pierantonio had four sons and one daughter. But only the daughter, Prudenzia, survived to adulthood--following her mother's return to Rome in 1621 and later move to Naples. After her mother's death in 1651, Prudenzia slipped into obscurity and little is known of her subsequent life.
(also see Women Artists)

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Artemisia Gentileschi: The Language of Painting by Jesse M. Locker - Hardcover: 248 pages; Publisher: Yale University Press (February 24, 2015)

Hailed as one of the most influential and expressive painters of the seventeenth century, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–ca. 1656) has figured prominently in the art historical discourse of the past two decades. This attention to Artemisia, after many years of scholarly neglect, is partially due to interest in the dramatic details of her early life, including the widely publicized rape trial of her painting tutor, Agostino Tassi, and her admission to Florence’s esteemed Accademia del Disegno. While the artist’s early paintings have been extensively discussed, her later work has been largely dismissed.

Artemisia Gentileschi: Taking Stock by Judith W. Mann (Editor) – Paperback: 195 pages Publisher: Brepols Publishers (March 28, 2006)

Contents: Judith W. Mann, Introduction; R. Ward Bissell, Re-thinking Early Artemisia; Patrizia Cavazzini, The Other Women in Agostino Tassi's Life; Judith W. Mann , The Myth of Artemisia as Chameleon: A new Look at the London Allegory of Painting; Riccardo Lattuada and Eduardo Nappi, New Documents and Some Remarks on Artemisia's Production in Naples and elsewhere; Mary D. Garrard, Artemisia's Hand; Elizabeth Cohen, "What's in a Name?..."; Ann Sutherland Harris, Artemisia and Orazio: Drawing Conclusions; Richard Spear, Money Matters; Alexandra Lapierre, Artemisia: Art, Facts and Fictions.

The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland – Paperback: 352 pages Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (December 31, 2002)

Susan Vreeland's second novel, The Passion of Artemisia, traces a particular painting through time: in this case, the post-Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi's violent masterpiece, "Judith." Although the novel purports to cover the life of the painter, the painting serves as a touchstone, foreshadowing Artemisia's rape by Agostino Tassi, an assistant in her father's painting studio in Rome; the well-documented (and humiliating) trial that followed; the early days of her hastily arranged marriage; and her eventual triumph as the first woman elected to the Accademia dell' Arte in Florence. Although Vreeland makes a bit free with her characters (which she admits in her introduction), attributing some decidedly modern attitudes to people who would not have thought that way at the time, her book is beautifully researched and rich with casual detail of clothing, interiors, and street life. She deftly works history and politics into the background of her canvas, keeping her focus on Artemisia and her family. Beyond the paintings Artemisia left behind, Vreeland's vision may be as close as we can come to understanding the anger and ambition that kept this talented woman at the doors of the Accademia, demanding entrance, in a time when respectable women rarely left their homes. —Regina Marler

Artemisia Gentileschi by Mary D. Garrard – Paperback: 640 pages Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 1991)

Garrard's in-depth study of Renaissance/Baroque painter Gentileschi is both timely and necessary. First, Garrard examines the life and work of the painter: the training with her artist father, the debt to Michelangelo and Caravaggio, the biblical and classical themes prevalent among her contemporaries, stylistic concerns, and her popularity, much-publicized rape, and influence. Then, using this information as context, Garrard proceeds to interpret the pictorial and spiritual contents of Gentileschi's paintings, contending that, while no one gainsays Gentileschi's skill, her true genius lies in her ability to empower mythic-heroic female subjects with "female artistic intelligence." In her novel, based on Gentileschi's life, Banti attempts to understand her own world, that of World War II Italy, through an imaginative and spiritual friendship with the 17th-century painter. Weaving back and forth between past and present, between a violated Artemesia and a violated Italy, Banti re-creates characters and landscapes. Through mastery of style and material, she builds a portrayal of courage and sorrow and creates a protagonist who moves from shadow to light. In both works, the final illumination belongs to the reader. —Lucy Breslin, Portland, Me. Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Artemisia (European Women Writers Series) by Anna Banti, Susan Sontag (Introduction), Shirley D'Ardia Caracciolo (Translator) – Paperback: 232 pages Publisher: Bison Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2004)

The reissue, in translation, of Italian art historian Banti's imaginative recreation of the life of artist Artemisia Gentileschi (1590-1642), initially published in 1947, is well deserved. This sensitive work of psychological portraiture, fluently translated by Caracciolo, is an intricate, self-reflective work of art. Banti fuses Artemisia's life with her own in Nazi-occupied Italy in a richly complex, historical narrative present, entering into dialogues with her heroine on how best to present her life, and on the nature and limitations of biography. As an unhappy adolescent in Rome, starved for love from her aloof father Orazio, a prominent artist, Artemisia allows herself to be seduced and is publicly humiliated for losing her "virtue." Hastily married off for form's sake, she is removed by the contemptuous Orazio to Florence where she begins to establish herself as a painter. Later, she assumes married life in Rome, but her husband abandons her when she asserts herself professionally. Eventually, Artemisia achieves independent success before she goes to her dying father's side where her art earns her his longed-for respect and approbation. Artemisia's struggle to fulfil herself, ensnared as she was in the toils of patriarchy with its punitive double standards, is a powerful lesson in courage and the sustaining powers of a vocation. Banti's richly poetical, wonderfully idiosyncratic prose amply rewards the attentive reader. —Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art: Critical Reading and Catalogue Raisonne by Ward Bissell - Paperback: 646 pages; Publisher: Pennsylvania State Univ Press (Txt) (January 8, 2001) Best Seller

A beautifully illustrated study of the life and works of this influential seventeenth-century woman artist, including the first catalogue raisonné of her autograph works. One of the most memorable creative personalities of the Baroque

The Artemisia Files: Artemisia Gentileschi for Feminists and Other Thinking People by Mieke Bal (Editor) – Hardcover: 245 pages Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (September 1, 2005)

One of the first female artists to achieve recognition in her own time, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) became instantly popular in the 1970s when feminist art historians "discovered" her and argued vehemently for a place for her in the canon of Italian baroque painters. Featured alongside her father, Orazio Gentileschi, in a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Artemisia has continued to stir interest though her position in the canon remains precarious, in part because her sensationalized life history has overshadowed her art.

In The Artemisia Files, Mieke Bal and her coauthors look squarely at this early icon of feminist art history and the question of her status as an artist. Considering the events that shaped her life and reputation––her relationship to her father and her role as the victim in a highly publicized rape case during which she was tortured into giving evidence—the authors make the case that Artemisia's importance is due to more than her role as a poster child in the feminist attack on traditional art history; here, Artemisia emerges more fully as a highly original artist whose work is greater than the sum of the events that have traditionally defined her.

The fresh, engaging discourse in The Artemisia Files will help to both renew the reputation of this artist on the merit of her work and establish her rightful place in the history of art.

Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art: Critical Reading and Catalogue Raisonne by R. Ward Bissell – Hardcover: 446 pages Publisher: Pennsylvania State Univ Pr (April 1999)

A beautifully illustrated study of the life and works of this influential seventeenth-century woman artist, including the first catalogue raisonné of her autograph works.
One of the most memorable creative personalities of the Baroque age and arguably the most forcefully expressive and influential woman painter in history, the Roman-born Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1652/3) has become the central figure in the recovery of the history of art produced by women. Applying a rigorous methodology, this profusely illustrated study with interpretative text and catalogue raisonné embeds Gentileschi’s pictorially and emotionally compelling pictures within the actual sociocultural contexts in and for which they were created.

The interpretive text analyzes key pictures and primary literary evidence to reveal the sweep of Artemisia’s oeuvre, chart her travels, define her standing with artists and patrons of the period, investigate the links between her financial situations and the artistic decisions that she made, and assess the validity of proposals regarding her activity as a still-life painter, her access to professional organizations, her level of literacy, and the nature of her subject matter. Exploring the question of the interrelationships among Gentileschi ’s gender and experiences as a woman, the state of her psyche, and her art, the text also confronts—and often challenges—the widely embraced feminist interpretation of her pictures.

Many of the conclusions in the text are supported by an extensive register of archival documents and by the very core of the study: the first and only catalogue raisonné of Artemisia’s autograph works, each of the fifty-seven pictures exhaustively investigated as to basic factual information, condition and color, iconography, history, documentation and dating, existing copies, and bibliography. Catalogues of misattribued and lost paintings complete this comprehensive volume.

Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi by Keith Christiansen, Judith Mann – Hardcover: 480 pages Publisher: Metropolitan Museum of Art (December 1, 2001)

Father and daughter Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi were unusual and gifted artists. Orazio Gentileschi (1563–1639) was the most talented follower of Caravaggio and a figure of international renown, active at the courts of Marie de' Medici in France, Charles I in England, and in Rome, Genoa, and Turin. Artemisia (1593– 1652/3) was the first Italian woman artist who was not only praised for her art by her contemporaries but whose paintings influenced the work of later generations. She is today a key figure in gender studies. Essays by an international group of art historians not only explore the development of each of these two painters individually but also compare their work, showing how both were influenced by their times and milieus. The book also includes new transcriptions of key parts of the notorious rape trial of Artemisia.

Artemisia (1998) Starring: Valentina Cervi, Michel Serrault Director: Agnès Merlet

Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: French
DVD Release Date: December 18, 2001
Run Time: 95 minutes

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was one of the first well-known female painters. The movie tells the story of her youth, when she was guided and protected by her father, the painter Orazio Gentileschi (Michel Serrault). Her professional curiosity about the male anatomy, forbidden for her eyes, led her to the knowledge of sexual pleasure. But she was also well known because in 1612 she had to appear in a courtroom because her teacher, Agostino Tassi, was suspected of raping her. She tried to protect him, but was put in the thumb screws...


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