The world of art of the 16th or 17th century differed from the contemporary one and was characterized by absolute male domination. Only a few female artists managed to succeed and gain fame in art until the 19th century. Nevertheless, there is a woman whose outstanding artistic performance brought her fame already in the 17th century. Her name is Artemisia Gentileschi, and she is an Italian Baroque artist who was not treated as an important contributor to the history of art until 1970 when art researchers reconsidered her position in art and society.
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Thus, the researchers stated that “Artemisia Gentileschi is the first woman in the history of western art to make a significant and undeniably important contribution to the art of her time” (Buckley, 2013, p. 832). Gentileschi is a follower of the naturalistic tradition developed by Caravaggio. She managed to bring it to a new level. Nevertheless, her name and artistic heritage are currently studied to feministic tradition. This essay analyzes some major works by Artemisia Gentileschi in the feministic context.
Evaluation of Work of Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi was a rebel in her artistic career and opposed the accepted taboos of Counter-Reformation taboos. Thus, the first painting that introduced her to the artistic world, Susanna and the Elders, was a challenge. At that time, female artists were expected to paint portraits and still life, and the plot developed by Gentileschi was not acceptable (Poggioli, 2016). Artemisia Gentileschi was eager to break archaic traditions of art typical of that period, which resulted in a valuable contribution to artistic heritage.
Some of her paintings are characterized by cruelty and violence. For example, the one titled Judith Slaying Holofernes depicts a biblical scene where Judith is beheading Holofernes. The focus of the painting is on the courage and beauty of a woman. Some of her works are autobiographic. For example, apart from self-portraits, Gentileschi has a work Lucretia, which depicts an image of a woman from classical mythology who was raped.
Artemisia Gentileschi as an Early Feminist
It can be supposed that the life and artistic career of Artemisia Gentileschi was significantly influenced by her rape at the age of 17 (Buckley, 2013). Her pieces of art created during and after the trial over her abuser are treated as symbols of revenge against the man who raped her (Poggioli, 2016, para. 14).
Moreover, this sad event had an impact on her perception of a woman who appears to be powerful and strong in her paintings. Thus, her famous work Judith Slaying Holofernes depicts females who demonstrate superiority over a man. Also, her paintings of that period involved the topics of defiance and freedom. On the whole, both her paintings that depict the tendencies of female empowerment and her success as a female painter made Gentileschi a feminist inspirer some centuries after her death. Nevertheless, at times of their creation, her works of art were not associated with feminist ideas.
To summarize, it should be mentioned that Artemisia Gentileschi’s heritage can be treated in different ways. On the whole, most of the researchers conclude that her works open a new direction in painting and introduce women into the artistic world. As the first woman accepted in the academy of design, she became an example to follow for other female painters. Apart from her contribution to the history of art, Artemisia Gentileschi is considered to be a great female artist who stimulated the development of the feminist movement.
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Buckley, P. (2013). Artemisia Gentileschi, 1593–1653. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(8), 832-833. Web.
Poggioli, S. (2016). Long seen as victim, 17th century Italian painter emerges as feminist icon. Web.