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Biography Of Artemisia Gentileschi And Her Artwork

939 words - 4 pages

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1654?) was one of the most important women artists before the modern period and certainly one of the most famous female painters from the seventeenth century. Gentileschi’s paintings regularly featured women as the protagonists acting in a manner equal to men. In fact, forty nine of her paintings fall into this category. She was raped at the age of 18 and the subsequent events lent her a certain amount of notoriety. These factors have led many to interpret her artwork as an expression of her role as a female victim looking for revenge through her art. Instead, a closer examination of Gentileschi’s life and her artwork exposes the artist as an individual with personal strength and incredible talent who painted subjects similar to or the same as those of her male counterparts, instead of staying within the guiding principles of what was acceptable “feminine” art.
Gentileschi was born in Rome and trained under her father, Orazio Gentileschi, himself a well-known painter of the time. Her earliest signed work, Suzanna and the Elders, was completed by the time she was seventeen years old. A year later, she was raped by another painter, Agostino Tassi, who claimed in the subsequent trial that he was hired by her father to tutor her in perspective. She underwent torture to judge the truthfulness of her testimony against Tassi and eventually he was found guilty of the crime. Shortly thereafter, she married Pietro Stiattesi, a Florentine painter and moved to Florence. After six years in Florence, Gentileschi separated from Stiattesi and took their daughter with her back to Rome. The years following reveal that she traveled to a number of places; Genoa, Venice, and London included, but finished her career in Naples, where she died. The exact date is unknown but evidence shows that it was possibly around 1653 to 1656. There are about fifty seven works of art identified to be from Gentileschi at this time. It is expected that there were considerably more paintings created by this artist that have been lost or misidentified, including portraits and still life works commissioned by patrons.
Gentileschi’s mastery of chiaroscuro is showcased in Judith and Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes and demonstrates a strong influence of Caravaggio’s characteristic style of using light to dark. One is struck with a sense of tense alertness while viewing Judith, her face partially cast in shadow as she leans by a single candle. Her left arm is held up, as if to signal her maidservant to be silent. The left hand, brilliantly lit by the candlelight, leads the eye to the right arm crossing her body. In her right hand she clutches a sword , details lost in the shadow, but this leads the eyes downward toward the maidservant,...

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