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 Diana Billings Art Blog

International Women’s Day

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

International Women’s Day

In honour of International Women’s Day, I have chosen to write about a woman in art. I want to write a little bit about Artemisia Gentileschi. Gentileschi was born in Rome in 1593 and is thought to have died in 1652 or 1653. Artemisia, an Italian Baroque artist of the 17th century, studied and trained under her father Orazio, who was a follower of the great painter Caravaggio. Knowing this you can see in her paintings how Caravaggio was a significant influence, and how she followed his style.

Early in her life she moved to Florence. Where she worked for the Grand Duke Cosimo II de’ Medici. The de’ Medici’s were great supporters of artists during the Renaissance. At 23 years old, Artemisia was living in Florence where she was elected to the Florentine Academy of Design. Which was at the time unusual for a woman to enter the Academy. During this period in history women were rarely allowed to apprentice as a painter.

One of my favourite painting of hers is “Judith Beheading Holofernes”. Based on the biblical book of Judith. In this story Judith charms herself and her maid into the tent of the drunk Holofernes, then beheads him with his own sword. This is a short take on the story. She had strong reasons for committing the act. Artemisia painted three images of this event and all three are graphic even by today’s standards. I have attached one image. Throughout her life Gentileschi painted many images of heroic biblical women. Some historians believe it was her way to relate her own struggles, to make her mark in an art world dominated by powerful men.

I have also attached an image of her painting - Self Portrait as an Allegory of Painting. Believed to have been painted while Gentileschi was living in England between 1638-1639. I think this painting shows a softer side of her .

Artemisias’ skill level is of the highest level, equal to her male counterparts such as Peitro Berrettini and Caravaggio himself. This style of painting is one of my very favourites. I love the dark back grounds and the attention to detail, all is dramatic and realistic.

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