Artemisia (a variation of the name Artemis, Greek virgin goddess of the forest) Gentileschi was quite the fascinating Baroque artist (1593–1652). At a early age her father introduced her to the world of art. Much to her dismay one day her tutor raped the poor girl. This rape would later inspire many of her artwork that feature women taking vengeance upon men or men assaulting women.
The intro painting is called Susana and the Elders made in 1910. Artemisia did this painting with the help of her father. The story portrayed above comes from the book of Daniel. Susana ,a rich pretty lady, was bathing in the river. Two lecherous Elders came by and started flirting with her. Since she refused to betray her husband the Elders then accused her of adultery. Both claimed that she had slept with a guy during the river. During her trail the Prophet Daniel spoke on her behalf. He interviewed both men separately. Because their stories did not match Daniel was able to prove Susana’s innocence. Anyhow, for this pretty painting deserves 5 stars.
Some time after her rape Gentileschi would create her own version of the story of Susana. Like Susana, Gentileschi went to court to prove that she was virgin before she was raped. This was a key factor in her lawsuit against her teacher. If she was not a virgin the law would not protect her. This painting seems to imply that her rape was just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps her teacher like the elders jeered at her. Thus, when she refused her teacher raped the girl. In both instances the law was on the side of the men. It must have taken quite a miracle for Gentileschi to win her case.This painting shows the pains that women had to endure under the yoke of patriarchy. Anyhow, both versions deserve 5 stars.
Soon after the her trail with her teacher, Gentileschi began her paintings of Judith. Every painting she made of Judith featured her beheading or with the head of Holofernes. The story goes that Judith went to the camp of the Canaanites enemies and pretended to be fleeing Israel. She then got Holofernes mighty drunk and while he slept Judith cut his head off. Unlike earlier depictions Holofernes is putting up a struggle. Here we see the powerful Judith subduing the general. Another striking detail is the fact that Holofernes bears the likeness of the man that raped Gentileschi.
It is to my perspective that Gentileschi did these paintings out of spite. She might have won the case but in the end the man she respective took her virginity. Virginity was a big deal back then. Without it woman could not find a proper husband and advance in her social sphere. Above all else, her father was a man of importance. Thus, to try to save face Gentileschi tried to marry the man that did her wrong.
Since in the end he would not budge she was forced to sue the guy to make public the fact that she was no longer a virgin because of him. Thus, after the incident needless to say that she dedicated herself to painting gruesome paintings of that man without his head.
In all the versions Judith is show as a strong, powerful independent woman. This was the image that Gentileschi was trying to portray to the world. She vented her feelings and frustrations into her canvas. Thus, with a sword she rid herself of the memory of the man that did her wrong.
Until finally, Gentileschi could stand strong and proud with trophy head of her tutor. Truly all five Judith paintings are each worthy of 5 stars.
Speaking of headless wonders the next painting comes from another biblical story. Anyhow, John the Baptist know the evil secret of Herodias. So she wanted him beheaded. Since she could not find a good excuse she had her pretty daughter Salome seduce her husband with a dance of the seven veils. In exchange of her last veil, Salome requested the head of John the Baptist. In this painting the executioner has just brought her the head. In a taunting fashion he holds it up as if saying, ” why don’t you kiss your sweet lover boy?”. Its truly interesting to see how all headless wonders look alike in the artwork of Gentileschi. Anyhow… 5 stars.
Like some of you might have noticed. All her biblical paintings are performed by her contemporaries. It is no accident that a scene staged in the year 1500 BC has characters wearing clothing of the 1600s. Gentileschi was best friends with the eccentric Caravaggio. Like him, she staged her biblical scenes in “modern” times. Anyhow, the above painting is from the book of Judges. Here Sisera is fulfilling the prophecy made by the prophet/judge/general Deborah. She is in the process of slaying Jael who was the invading General that lost to the might of Deborah. As he fled from Deborah’s troops he sought refuge in the tent of Sisera. Recognizing the man, Sisera offered her usual “services” while he slept Sisera slew him and offered his head to Deborah. Ah… I like happy endings. Another man that falls under the might and wit of women. By God, just look at the kill face of Sisera as she prepares to hammer down on Jael. He really was oblivious to what was in for him. Another thins that I noticed is that most of the paintings themed after women subduing have main woman wearing golden. Anyhow, 5 stars for this pretty picture.
Ahaseurus might not have lost his head but in the end he did succumb to Esther’s wit in the end. The story goes that this Persian King wanted to “show off” his wife. Since she disobeyed he was forced to get a new more obedient wife in order to safe face and prevent all wives in the kingdom from imitating his 1st. He then asked for many women to join his Harem. For 12 months they where made pretty and then he would pick one.
Eventually, he chose Esther. In this scene, Esther faints under the sight of the Persian king. He immediately falls madly in love with her. Through him Esther was able to save the Jews from their impending doom. Like the other strong women in the art of Gentileschi, Esther wears a golden color dress. What I truly like is the lecherous expression of the Persian king. It is ironic that he traded a disobedient wife for a manipulative one. Don’t you just love Bible stories. Anyhow, this wonderful work of art deserves 5 stars.
Now this is quite the nice change of pace. Unlike, the other women of before Bathsheba actually seems happy. Eventually, Gentileschi was able to find love and thus desisted from her attempt to marry her teacher . Here we see pretty Bathsheba preparing to herself with her date with King David while her husband goes on a death march. From all his wives , Bathsheba was the one that king David loved the best. She playing a prominent role in his last days. While he laid agonizing in his death bed it was Bathsheba who made certain that Israel ran smoothly. Like all the other powerful women in Gentileschi’s biblical paintings Bathsheba has her golden dress in the foreground. She really was quite the ambitious girl. Anyhow, 5 star for Bathsheba.
A Madonna with a child is quite the beautiful painting. It shows the great love and respect that Gentileschi had for her father. Allow me to explain. Gentileschi’s father introduced her to the art world. He was always very supportive and even helped her to advance her artistic aspirations. During the trail, he stood up for the honor of his daughter. This painting shows Gentileschi’s intentions to care for her father in his old age as if he was her own son. It is truly quite the pretty 5 star picture.
This same theme appears in the painting of Lot and his daughters. Here we see one of the girls putting a protective hand over Lot she gazes with her sister the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah. The subject matter also might imply a hidden Electra complex that Gentileschi had toward her father. After all, Lot’s daughter did drunk their dear old father for the sake of the perpetuity of their clan. Needless to say, Gentileschi would do anything to uphold the honor of her name. Even if it meant marrying the man that raped her. Anyhow, this pretty picture deserves 5 stars.
This same rape keeps appearing over and over as a subject matter in her paintings. The above woman is the mystical Lucretia. She was a noble Roman woman that was raped by the son of the king. Out of shame she committed suicide. It was her death that triggered the a revolution that over threw the monarchy and established the roman republic. It seems that death was the only solution left to Lucretia since she was powerless before the law. Her resolute face seems to be asking for the furies for Justice. It is truly quite the emotional 5 star painting.
Cleopatra another woman that committed suicide to escape public shame and ridicule. This historical woman had a snake bite her in the chest when she saw her Egyptian forces defeated. It seems that for a while Gentileschi believed that death was her solution to her problems. Gentileschi, a girl who had it all, now was forced to live at the mercy of a man beneath her station. How sad, Cleapatra looks so peaceful in death… 5 stars for this sad painting.
Gentileschi seemed to have some affinity toward Saint Cecilia. In one of her self portraits she is playing the lute like her saint. The story goes that she would not die until she received communion. They even severed her head once and she would not die. Martyrdom aside Saint Cecilia seems to be the helper saint that Gentileschi appeals to in her hours of need. Both paintings do deserve 5 stars.
Gentileschi is truly quite the fascinating baroque artist. She fought the good fight in order to earn her place as an artist among her male counterparts. Like her female characters she was a strong woman who was forced to suffer a lot under the strain of a patriarch system. Thus, in the end she was able to earn her rightful place in the Academy of Art and Design of Florence as their first female member. Truly she is an artist for all women to look up to and admire.
- Merisi da Caravaggio Merisi da Caravaggio Caravaggio was quite the disturbed trouble soul....