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Gentileschi, Artemisia (1593–c. 1653)

Gentileschi, Artemisia (1593–c. 1653)

Italian artist. Name variations: Aertimisiae Gentilescha. Pronunciation: Ar-tee-ME-zha Gente-LESkee. Born in Rome, Italy, July 8, 1593; died in Naples, Italy, around 1653; dau. of Orazio Gentileschi (painter) and Prudentia (Montone) Gentileschi; m. Pietro Antonio di Vincenzo Stiattesi (Florentine artist), in 1612; children: Palmira (or Prudentia), also a painter (b. 1618) and another girl (name unknown).

One of the most celebrated women painters of the 17th century whose artistic influence, traceable from her native Italy to Spain and Holland, was obscured for centuries by the emphasis placed by many art historians upon her personal mores; at 17, painted earliest signed work, Susanna and the Elders (1610), which demonstrated an unusual maturity of style; met the man whose name would forever tarnish hers (1611), her tutor Agostino Tassi; was raped by Tassi who then promised to marry her; father sued Tassi for damage and injury as the result of the rape of his daughter (Mar 1612 [according to the law of the time, Artemisia, as the property of her father, had no legal recourse to justice]); on marriage, moved to Florence, where the support of Cosimo II, one of the Medici family, paved the way for her full acceptance into the artistic community; soon became a member of the Florence Accademia del Disegno, the 1st woman to enter since its founding in 1563; painted Judith and Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes (1625), which is recognized by art historians as her greatest work; worked in England for King Charles I (1638); moved to Naples (1642), where she was to spend the last decade of her life (though she had excelled at her work, influencing artists across Europe, worked for some of the most important patrons of the day, left paintings recognized both then and now as masterpieces, interest in her for centuries centered upon the details of her personal life, specifically her promiscuity, as evidenced through the rape trial). Paintings include Judith Beheading Holofernes (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence); Penitent Magdalen; Aurora; Rape of Proserpine; Lucrezia (Durazzo-Adorno collection); Cleopatra (may be misattributed, Palazzo Rossi deposito); The Portrait of a Condottiere (or Portrait of a Papal Knight); Esther and Ahasuerus (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Annunciation (1630, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples); Fame (1632); Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting; St. Catherine (1635); St. Januarius with Lions (Pozzuoli Basilica, Naples); Adoration of the Magi (Pozzuoli Basilica, Naples); Sts. Proculus and Nicaea (Pozzuoli Basilica, Naples); David and Bathsheba (two versions, one of which is in Columbus Museum of Art); and Birth of John the Baptist (Museo del Prado, Madrid).

See also Anna Banti, Artemisia (trans. by Shirley D'Ardia Caracciolo, University of Nebraska Press, 1995); Mary D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art (Princeton University Press, 1989); and Women in World History.

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