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Artemisia Gentileschi

Italian Baroque painter

Artemisia Gentileschi Photo
Movements and Styles: The Baroque, Mannerism, Proto-Feminist Artists

Born: July 8, 1593 - Rome, Italy

Died: c. 1656 - Naples, Italy

"My illustrious lordship, I'll show you what a woman can do."

Artemisia Gentileschi Signature

Summary of Artemisia Gentileschi

Centuries ahead of her time, Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the first and only female artists to achieve success in the seventeenth century. Following in the footsteps of Caravaggio, her Baroque paintings were some of the most dramatic and dynamic of her generation and she became known for her realism, her accomplished use of chiaroscuro, and for placing women and their stories at the center of all her images. Her surviving works present a unique personal perspective on the cultural and social norms of the period, norms which she often intentionally inverted, using her position as an artist to comment on the male-dominated nature of society and to place an alternative focus on female agency.

Key Ideas

Although stylistically Artemisia Gentileschi's work owes a debt to that of Caravaggio and her father Orazio, her paintings place a greater emphasis on realism than her predecessors. Her compositions are also more energetic and during her career she carefully refined the use of texture and color, becoming known for her rich jewel hues and realistic flesh tones.
Gentileschi subverted traditional depictions of the female protagonists of biblical and mythological stories presenting them as self-motivated heroines capable of making their own decisions rather than passive objects of the male gaze. In doing so she presented them in an entirely new way and this allowed them to possess a power that had been denied them by other artists.
The artist's teenage experience of sexual assault affected much of her work and themes of abuse of authority, rape, and violence permeate many of her paintings. It is likely that painting these subjects allowed her to process the trauma of her assault and to seek revenge and redress through her artworks.
Artemisia Gentileschi Photo

Artemisia Gentileschi was born on July 8, 1593, in Rome to Prudentia Montone (who died when Artemisia was 12), and Orazio Gentileschi, a well-known painter. The eldest of several children, Gentileschi quickly showed an aptitude for art and began to learn from her father. Orazio was a friend of Caravaggio, the provocative and wild painter at the forefront of the art scene in Rome. Together, Orazio and Caravaggio were once charged for writing slanderous graffiti on the streets of Rome about another painter. During the trial, Orazio told an anecdote about Caravaggio visiting his house to borrow some angel wings, indicating that the great artist was intimate with the Gentileschi family and suggesting that the eldest daughter Artemisia would have met him. Regardless, when Artemisia was 13, Caravaggio was implicated in a murder and forced to flee from Rome to Naples. Despite this, Caravaggio's influence can be seen in the work of both Orazio and Artemisia.

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