Recently, an Artemesia Gentileschi painting has been acquired by the Getty art museum in L.A. through an undisclosed seller. They plan on having it on display for viewing when the time comes for reopening.
An artist of the 17th century, Gentileschi, was left unknown until the 1970s when art historian Linda Nochlin wrote an article of the women of art titled, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”
Artemesia Gentileschi was born in 1593 in Italy. Her father was artist Orazio Gentileschi, and it was he who taught her the art style reminiscent of Caravaggio, since she could not be an apprentice in the all-male art studios. She was the first female to enter Florence’s Accademia del Disegno (Academy of Design). It was there that she honed her skills enough to grab the attention of wealthy patrons, such as the grand duke of Tuscany and the Medici family.
Her life was tainted by a rape that occurred when she was only 17 years old by her fathers’ employee. The rapist was charged and sentenced, yet the sentence was never carried out. It influenced much of her work, where she would showcase a heroine in shocking settings. Along with the dark subject favored by her influence of Caravaggio, Gentileschi created such works as Judith Slaying Holofernes, based on the story from the book of Judith where Israel is delivered from the Assyrians.
The one that the Getty purchased was of Lucretia, the Roman heroine who committed suicide after being raped, which prompted a rebellion to overthrow the Roman monarchy. It shows Lucretia, dagger in hand, her head tilted back, peering at perhaps heaven, just before plunging the blade into her chest.
A case of life imitating art? A silent cry from a rape victim whose rapist went unpunished? A call to injustices and discrimination against women; as relevant now as it was in the 17th century? Perhaps a culmination of the three.
Thanks to this acquisition and the 1976 exhibition catalog, Women Artists: 1550-1950, Artemesia Gentileschi will be well known not only in art history but in the modern art world.
By Artemisia Gentileschi – Google Cultural Institute, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37146117