The art of the Renaissance is frequently considered to have the most unmistakable pieces and craftsmen. Be that as it may, the rundown of Renaissance painters, stoneworkers, and designers is ruled by men and their manifestations. It is possible to single out only a few prominent female artists who made an impact on Renaissance art with their artistic contribution. However, some ladies of the Renaissance time frame increased some acknowledgment due to their intentional effort to influence the perception of females as craftsmen rather than mere sexual objects. One of these ladies is Artemisia Gentileschi, a Renaissance painter from Italy, whose representations and artistic creations enabled her to turn into the primary female individual from the Italian Academia of Art and Design.
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Gentileschi’s Brief Biography
The image of Artemisia Gentileschi is particularly interesting for modern Italian art scholars as the life experiences of this artist influenced her art in many ways. Namely, it is known that Artemisia Gentileschi was born into a creative family as her father was Orazio Gentileschi, a well-known Italian painter who was greatly influenced by the art of Caravaggio (Locker, 2015). It is also known from her biography entries that Gentileschi was raped by one of her father’s colleagues, but this detail was omitted in earlier sources on her life (Locker, 2015; Siciliano, 2019). As noted by Wilbourne, numerous of Gentileschi’s works were analyzed in the context of rape and examined for adequacy of her psychic state (Wilbourne, 2016). Clearly, this experience could have affected her both as a person and an artist. Interestingly, Gentileschi is one of a few well-known painters of her period besides Rembrandt and Caravaggio (Locker, 2015). In fact, Caravaggio had a strong influence on Artemisia Gentileschi’s artistic vision. Overall, it is safe to assume that Artemisia Gentileschi is a prominent female figure for the age of the Renaissance.
The skill of the young artist proliferated that by the age of sixteen she had become a real artist. Just like her father, her work was created under the influence of Caravaggio. In 1609, Gentileschi already created the picture of “Madonna and Child.” Her father believed that she needed to receive training on building perspectives from his fellow artist Agostino Tassi. Studying with Tassi, who was distinguished by reprehensible morals, turned into a sad story for Gentileschi: the teacher dishonored the student by raping her. The father, being aware of the incident, hoped that Tassi would marry his daughter, and for a long time, could not believe in the betrayal of his companion. Only after the persistent requests of his daughter did he sue Tassi.
Opinions of women were not perceived as valuable at that time, so Tassi wanted to exploit this advantage. He denied all the charges and claimed that it was Gentileschi who had seduced him into this activity. In court, it turned out that Tassi had been married for a long time, which neither Artemisia nor her father suspected. After the trial, Orazio married Artemisia to the Florentine artist Pierantonio States, and the wedding took place several days after Tassi was imprisoned. Artemisia rejected the surname of her father and did not accept her husband’s surname. Afterward, however, she still signed her paintings with the last name of Gentileschi. A couple of weeks after the wedding, the newlyweds moved to Florence, where Artemisia proved to be a successful artist. In Florence, Gentileschi developed good relations with the most respected artists of the time and further popularized her most prominent artworks, including “Judith” (Christiansen, 2004). Later, she and her family moved to Naples because of its fame among artists.
After a ten-year stay in Florence, Artemisia returned to Rome and then moved to Naples, which was associated with the late period of her work. In Naples, she became friends with the great Spanish artist Jusepe de Ribera, who had a definite impact on her. In Naples, Artemisia worked on orders which encompassed altarpieces, but she was very original even when working on the most traditional subjects.
Artemisia lived in Naples and continued to compose paintings filled with female imagery. Having become a member of the Florentine Academy, she gained full legal independence and received the right to manage all her affairs on an equal basis with men. She broke up with her husband and began raising two daughters herself. However, it was a thorny way to success. Despite her regalia, she did not have the right to portray a naked male body: the church strictly forbade and tabooed this topic. Nothing prevented her, however, from embodying stories about legendary women on the canvas.
Some cutting-edge researchers depict crafted by Artemisia Gentileschi as instances of early women’s liberation, taking note that the subjects and visuals in her sketches are unique in relation to those of male specialists. Her artistic choices characterize her as a particularly emancipated character as Gentileschi was not afraid to reveal her creative skills through seemingly unusual imagery for a female artist. Namely, in the reviews of Artemisia Gentileschi’s works, many authors deem her art as particularly cruel, calling her “a painter who could depict blood and gore dispassionately day in and day out” (as cited in Och, 2017, p. 242). Other reviewers found it difficult to grasp that a woman could be the author of some of Gentileschi’s art (Och, 2017).
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However, most scholars agree that the depiction of horror, as well as her intentional avoidance of delightful imagery, could be a manifestation of her inner female power. The artist often depicts victimized female personages, which is often viewed as a manifestation of her strong personality, but it is only one way of interpreting Gentileschi’s art. Later on, the painter moves away from Caravaggesque cruelty to a more idealistic style (Locker, 2015). Nowadays, her unique style of portraits is associated with accurate depictions of emotional states and sensitivity, which is quite typical for female artists (Dominguez & Ferrer, 2018). All in all, studying Artemisia Gentileschi is a potentially controversial process as the researchers might encounter debatable reviews related to the painter’s profeminist position.
That being said, graphical violence is not the only tactic used by the lady in celebrating her creative and powerful female identity. One investigation, composed, by Conn (2015), centers around the self-pictures of this craftsman to demonstrate that the subjects in the progress of Gentileschi were not unintentional. The analyst depicts that this painter expected to illustrate the situation of a female craftsman in a network controlled by men. While different students of history generally center around various works of Gentileschi, investigating the women’s activist ideas in artistic creations that portray different scenes and people, Conn (2015) committed her consideration regarding concentrating self-representations of Gentileschi. Self-representations of Artemisia Gentileschi speak to the situation of female painters in the Renaissance time frame and demonstrate that early women’s rights centered around residential topics as well as on ladies’ place in the expert world.
The role of females in Renaissance art is a subject of numerous controversies, which is due to the fact that the females were not generally perceived as worthy in any other area beyond their physical appearance. Conn (2015) composes that the fame of female painters during the Renaissance time frame was discolored by contemporary commentators, who saw workmanship by female makers as a non-genuine undertaking. Truth be told, numerous people gave more consideration to the physical highlights of female craftsmen, undermining their works. As per Conn (2015), numerous female painters of that period wanted to make self-representations where they would show themselves during work. Such activities demonstrate that ladies needed to be perceived as experts and not models for another person’s work.
Women’s activist researchers regularly focus on one of the most celebrated compositions of Gentileschi, called Judith Slaying Holofernes. Indeed, this work portrays a scene that numerous specialists may consider to be a piece of a ground-breaking women’s activist story. Be that as it may, this work of art centers around close-to-home connections among ladies and men, while Gentileschi’s representations and self-pictures show ladies from an alternate perspective. The criticalness of self-depiction is regularly neglected for craftsmen that are well known for artistic creations loaded up with activity. In any case, the manner in which specialists see themselves can uncover a great deal about them.
“Judith Slaying Holofernes” was composed during the events that followed the rape. The story of Judith was famous among the painters of that time: Caravaggio, Botticelli, and others had worked on this subject. Judith is a Jewish heroine from the Old Testament, a widow who, according to the writing, beheaded the Assyrian commander Holofernes and saved her city. To do this, they went with her housemaid to the enemy camp and Judith seduced Holofernes, and when he drank the wine, they killed him together. The way Gentileschi depicted the scene in question is different from its typical illustrations. Firstly, few people had reproduced the very moment of the murder: Judith was usually presented as she was leaving the tent. Secondly, unlike the similar work of Caravaggio, Gentileschi’s painting is filled with realism: Holofernes is terrified, the blood is realistic, and Judith and her maid are doing the work together. With closer attention, one can notice that Judith is outwardly similar to Gentileschi herself.
Subjects, common in early women’s liberation, regularly rotated around residential or recreational points, since ladies were not expected to take part in such everyday issues as governmental affairs, workmanship, or physical work. Along these lines, most scenes with ladies indicated them as delightful women. In addition, painters frequently utilized a female figure as an image or a theoretical thought. Conn (2015) noticed that while depicting female craftsmen, a portion of the creators painted “the apparatuses — a brush and palette … close to the figure, yet not being used” (p. 25). In this manner, a lady was not found in real life, which enabled the faultfinders to decipher such canvases as visual portrayals of female specialists being centered around their very own magnificence. Gentileschi, then again, depicted herself during work, with a brush close by, which demonstrated her expert side. Her method for portrayal enabled other ladies to see that they can likewise take an interest in such exercises. In addition, with these self-representations, Gentileschi set herself close by different painters, setting up her place in the workmanship world.
Therefore, the figure of Artemisia Gentileschi had a strong impact on the perception of females in art not only by their male counterparts but also by other women. The success of Gentileschi and her widespread popularity has reinforced the importance of females as independent skilled artists who can convey multiple layers of meaning through the use of vivid imagery and symbols. Gentileschi’s feminist inclinations possibly caused by her early life experiences might have shaped her as a person and later on, as an artist. The topic of female liberation and the celebration of their craftsmanship is one of the central themes of Artemisia Gentileschi’s art. While Gentileschi earned acknowledgment through different works of art and various characteristic features of her style, the lady’s self-representations ought to likewise be viewed as a piece of early women’s activist history as they show how a female craftsman of Renaissance set up her place in the realm of male painters.
In the history of world art, Gentileschi is the one who was so talented that, despite all social and discriminatory conditions, achieved fame and recognition. The creativity of this outstanding artist of the 17th century and her life are so intertwined that it is impossible to understand her paintings without the knowledge of her dramatic biography. It is also incredibly challenging to comprehend the art of baroque without learning about Caravaggio and his follower, Artemisia Gentileschi. When the voice of women was not heard, when the achievements of women were ignored, and when the women had almost no rights, a simple Italian girl was able to prove herself talented and capable. The influence of Gentileschi as a woman artist who struggled the difficulties, and both career and personal life challenges on the history of art, is undeniable.
Until the end of life, Artemisia was accompanied by misunderstanding, injustice, and financial difficulties. The interest to the proud and independent artist, who achieved European recognition, had many clients, supporters, and followers, gradually faded. Attention to the paintings of Artemisia Gentileschi has arisen relatively recently. Although some correctly emphasized the role of the artist in the spread of Caravaggism in northern Italy, for many years Gentileschi’s art was viewed only from a feminist perspective. There are several novels about Gentileschi and her art, and also a film adaptation.
Christiansen, K. (2004). Becoming Artemisia: Afterthoughts on the Gentileschi Exhibition. Metropolitan Museum Journal, 39, 101-126.
Conn, V. L. (2015). The personal is the political: Artemisia Gentileschi’s revolutionary self-portrait as the allegory of painting. Kaleidoscope, 8(1), 23-29.
Dominguez, S. C., & Ferrer, M. C. (2018). Ethics and aesthetics: Moral warnings by different female artists. In P. Kazmierczak & J. Rzegocka (Eds.), Moral upbringing through the arts and literature (pp. 261-271). Newcastle, United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Locker, J. M. (2015). Artemisia Gentileschi: The language of painting. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Och, M. (2017). The Advancing Women Artists Foundation, and women artists in the age of Medici. Early Modern Women, 11(2), 125–130.
Siciliano, G. (2019). I know what I am: The true story of Artemisia Gentileschi. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books.
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Wilbourne, E. (2016). A question of character: Artemisia Gentileschi and Virginia Ramponi Andreini. Italian Studies, 71(3), 335–355.