1593- 1692 - Female Baroque Painter
(Both Artemisia & her father, Orazio, are at the Getty Center)
In photo: the Judith & Holofernes series & the Penitent Magdalene
Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome on 8 July 1593, the eldest child of the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi. 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
She was one of the greatest of Caravaggesque painters and a formidable personality. She was precociously gifted, built up a European reputation, and lived a life of independence rare for a woman of the time. Born in Rome, she worked mainly there and in Florence until she settled in Naples in 1630 (she also visited her father in England in 1638-40).
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 vaults of Casino della Rose inside the Pallavicini Rospigliosi Palace in Rome, so Orazio hired the painter to tutor his daughter privately. During this tutelage, Tassi raped Artemisia. Another man, Cosimo Quorlis had helped Tassi with the rape. After the initial rape, Artemisia continued to have sexual relations with Tassi, with the expectation that they were going to be married. However, Tassi reneged on his promise to marry Artemisia after he heard the rumour that she was having an affair with another man. Quorlis had threatened that if he could not have her, he would publicly humiliate her. Orazio pressed charges against Tassi only after he learned that Artemisia and Tassi were not going to be married. Orazio also claimed that Tassi stole a painting of Judith from the Gentileschi household. The major issue of this trial was the fact that Tassi had deflowered Artemisia. If Artemisia had not been a virgin before Tassi raped her, the Gentileschis would not have been able to press charges.
In the ensuing 7-month trial, it was discovered that Tassi had planned to murder his wife, had enjoined in adultery 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 thumbscrews. Both procedures were used to corroborate the truth of her allegation, the torture device used due to the belief that if a person can tell the same story under torture as without it, the story must be true[Citation Needed]. At the end of the trial Tassi was sentenced to imprisonment for one year, although he never served the time. The trial has subsequently influenced the feminist view of Artemisia Gentileschi during the late 20th century.
In Florence, Artemisia enjoyed huge success. She was the first woman accepted into the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing). She maintained good relations with the most respected artists of her time, such as Cristofano Allori, and was able to conquer the favours and the protection of influential people, starting with Granduke Cosimo II de’ Medici and especially of the Granduchess Cristina. She had a good relationship with Galileo Galilei with whom she remained in epistolary contact for a long time.
In 1638 Artemisia joined her father in London at the court of Charles I of England, where Orazio became court painter and received the important job of decorating a ceiling (allegory of Trionfo della pace e delle Arti (Triumph of the peace and the Arts) in the Casa delle Delizie of Queen Henrietta Maria of France in Greenwich). Father and daughter were once again working together, although helping her father was probably not her only reason for travelling to London: Charles I had convoked her in his court, and it was not possible to refuse. Charles I was a fanatical collector, willing to ruin public finances to follow his artistic wishes.
While in Florence, Artemisia and Pierantonio (her husband) 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, Prudenzia slipped into obscurity and little is known of her subsequent life.
……You can see paintings by her and her father at the Getty Center. My favorite thing about Artemisia, is her use of color. Note the saturated colors of red, blue and yellow -lush, deep and bold.