Who was Artemisia Gentileschi?
Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian Baroque painter who rose to prominence in the 17th century and despite the hostility towards female artists at the time; she managed to carve a niche for herself in the world of painting. Artemisia Gentileschi’s father was a professional painter named Orazio Gentileschi and it was under his tutelage that she learnt to paint. Her painting was so similar to her father that art critics have stated that it often became difficult to distinguish between the work of the two and both had a style that was distinctly inspired from the works of the painter Caravaggio. Artemisia Gentileschi suffered at the hands of one of her father’s friends when she was a teenager and that experience had a profound effect on her as a painter as most of her paintings displayed strong female characters. She worked in Rome, Florence, Naples and finally in London, England for King Charles I and carved a name for herself as one of the leading painters. Artemisia Gentileschi is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the era in which she lived and her painting ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’ is one of her most famous works that is still studied by students of painting.
Childhood & Early Life
Artemisia Gentileschi was born on 8 July 1593 in Rome to Orazio Gentileschi and his wife Prudentia Montone. Her father Orazio was an accomplished painter who specialised in the Mannerist style of painting and was also a keen follower of the works of Caravaggio.
Artemisia Gentileschi wanted to become a painter and in the early years of her life she was trained by her father. A friend of his father, Agostino Tassi, also trained her in the nuances of painting.
Artemisia Gentileschi’s earliest works show a clear tendency to copy the style of her father and according to experts it can be noticed from her very first painting ‘Susanna and the Elders’ which she completed in 1610. For a long time it was assumed that the painting was her father’s.
Agostino Tassi, who had been asked to mentor Artemisia in the absence of her father raped Artemisia in 1611 and when he refused to marry her despite his promises, Gentileschi’s father took him to court. The trial lasted for a total of seven months at the end Tassi was found guilty.
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Artemisia Gentileschi moved to Florence following her marriage to a native of the city and in the year 1616 she became the first to enter the Florence Academy of Design. During her time in Florence she became well acquainted with the well-known personalities from the world of arts as well as people who had ties to the influential Medici family.
During her time in Florence, Artemisia Gentileschi helped Michelangelo’s nephew Michelangelo Buonarroti by supplying him with a painting that was to adorn the ceiling of a gallery. Her other works during this time include ‘The Conversion of Magdalene’, ‘Self-Portrait of a Lute Player’ and ‘Judith and her Maid servant’. In 1621, Gentileschi went back to Rome.
Artemisia Gentileschi spent most of the 1620s in Rome and later on in Venice. During this period she was fascinated with the work of Caravaggio and some of the works of this period include ‘Portrait of Gonfalonieri’, ‘The Sleeping Venus’ and ‘Esther and Ahasuerus’.
Artemisia Gentileschi moved to Naples in 1630 since it was a city that had the reputation of being very lucrative for artists and during her stint in the city she worked on paintings that were meant for cathedrals. ‘Birth of Saint John the Baptist’ and ‘Corisca and the Satyr’ are notable works from this period.
In 1638, Artemisia Gentileschi went to work with hER father Orazio in London, England, to work for King Charles I. They worked on the paintings that constituted the decoration of the Great Hall at the Queen’s House. She continued to work in London for a few years and then went back to Naples.
Artemisia Gentileschi’s most famous work is the painting titled ‘Judith beheading Holofernes’ which she completed sometime in 1613. The violence in the painting depicting the murder of Holofernes and detailing involved in the painting has elevated this work to the realms of the great paintings. The painting is now housed at the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.
Personal Life & Legacy
Artemisia Gentileschi got married to the painter Pierantonio Stiattesi at around 1613 but the marriage ended in 1621 due to rising debts owing to her husband’s spending habits. The couple had a daughter named Palmira.
There is dispute among historians regarding the exact year or cause of her death simply because there is no record of her later life or career. There is a theory that she might have died of the plague that affected Naples in the year 1656.
Artemisia Gentileschi was the first woman to study at the Florence Academy of Design.