Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Artemisia Gentileschi and Her Time"

Artemisia Gentileschi Exhibition, Rome (30 November 2016-7 May 2017)

Driving home late this afternoon after a long lunch with my best friend, I heard a story on All Things Considered by my favorite NPR reporter (Sylvia Poggioli) about my favorite artist, Artemisia Gentileschi.

An AP photo of a visitor to the exhibition at
Rome's Palazzo Braschi museum snapping a photo
of one of Gentileschi's most well known works
I've posted about Artemisia Gentileschi and her work before (click here), recounting my experience of wandering around the Uffizi, turning a corner, and suddenly coming face to face with one of her paintings (as opposed to a color plate in an art book) for the first time. 

Years later, a trip back to Italy became, for me and my enthusiastic son, something of an Artemisia pilgrimage (or, more accurately, obsessive stalking), as I tracked down as many of her works as I could in the time I was traveling. 

So I was particularly excited to hear Poggioli's report announcing the opening of an exhibition of Artemisia Gentileschi's work in Rome. How wonderful that such a gathering of her work is now on display in one place. And, hey, it isn't even some dutiful recognition of her life--she was born in 1593 and died in 1653, so it isn't a four-hundredth anniversary of her birth or death or anything . . . It's almost like she's an artist worth celebrating because of the power of her painting!

It's still not, strictly speaking, a solo show--a third of the 95 or so works on display are Artemisia's (the rest by contemporary artists she knew and younger painters on whom her work had an influence). In 2002, a father-daughter exhibition, "Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi," was hosted in Rome and in the U.S., at the Getty Museum (Los Angeles) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But, still, this new attention to Artemisia Gentileschi's work is welcome. However, that doesn't mean she's yet received the full recognition she's due. As Poggioli reports, 
A painting by Artemisia was sold at Sotheby's two years ago for more than $1 million.
But in a sign of a substantial gender gap also in the art market, a painting by her father, Orazio, was bought by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in January for more than $30 million. And yet, with her intense colors and heroines at the center of dramatic narratives, the daughter's paintings far outshine those of her father. (Emphasis mine.)
I know, I know . . . I'm never satisfied . . .

A self-portrait of Gentileschi

There are lots of pieces in the Italian press on the exhibit if you can manage in Italian. There is also a great piece by Lucy Gordon in La voce di New York (it's in English; click here).

I should also add that Gentileschi's Susannah and the Elders is included in the UK's National Gallery "Beyond Caravaggio" (12 October 2017 to 15 January 2017). You may be interested in Jonathan Jones's comments on Gentileschi, "More Savage than Caravaggio: The Woman Who Took Revenge in Oil" (The Guardian)--to access the piece, click here.