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Artemisia Gentileschi | Artistic importance

The research paper "Gentileschi, padre e figlia" (1916) by Roberto Longhi (Italian academic, art historian and curator, 1890-1970. The main subjects of his studies were the painters Caravaggio and Piero della Francesca) described Artemisia (1593-1652) as "the only woman in Italy who ever knew about painting, coloring, drawing, and other fundamentals".
Longhi also wrote of Judith Slaying Holofernes:

"There are about fifty-seven works by Artemisia Gentileschi and 94% (forty-nine works) feature women as protagonists or equal to men".
These include her works of Jael and Sisera, Judith and her Maidservant, and Esther. These characters intentionally lacked the stereotypical "feminine" traits - sensitivity, timidness, and weakness - and were courageous, rebellious, and powerful personalities (such subjects are now grouped under the name the Power of Women).
A nineteenth-century critic commented on Artemisia's Magdalene stating, "no one would have imagined that it was the work of a woman. The brush work was bold and certain, and there was no sign of timidness".



In Raymond Ward Bissell's view, she was well aware of how women and female artists were viewed by men, explaining why her works were so bold and defiant in the beginning of her career.

Longhi wrote:
Who could think in fact that over a sheet so candid, a so brutal and terrible massacre could happen [...] but - it's natural to say - this is a terrible woman!
A woman painted all this? ... there's nothing sadistic here, instead what strikes the most is the impassibility of the painter, who was even able to notice how the blood, spurting with violence, can decorate with two drops the central spurt! Incredible I tell you! And also please give Mrs. Schiattesi - the conjugal name of Artemisia - the chance to choose the hilt of the sword!
At last don't you think that the only aim of Giuditta is to move away to avoid the blood which could stain her dress?
We think anyway that that is a dress of Casa Gentileschi, the finest wardrobe in Europe during 1600, after Van Dyck".

Feminist studies increased the interest in Artemisia Gentileschi, underlining her rape and subsequent mistreatment, and the expressive strength of her paintings of biblical heroines, in which the women are interpreted as willing to manifest their rebellion against their condition.
In a research paper from the catalogue of the exhibition "Orazio e Artemisia Gentileschi", which took place in Rome in 2001 (and after in New York), Judith W. Mann critiques feminist opinion of Artemisia, finding that old stereotypes of Artemisia as sexually immoral have been replaced by new stereotypes established in feminist readings of Artemisia's paintings:


Without denying that sex and gender can offer valid interpretive strategies for the investigation of Artemisia's art, we may wonder whether the application of gendered readings has created too narrow an expectation.
Underpinning Garrard's monograph, and reiterated in a limited way by Bissell in his catalogue raisonné, are certain presumptions: that Artemisia's full creative power emerged only in the depiction of strong, assertive women, that she would not engage in conventional religious imagery such as the Madonna and Child or a Virgin who responds with submission to the Annunciation, and that she refused to yield her personal interpretation to suit the tastes of her presumably male clientele.
This stereotype has had the doubly restricting effect of causing scholars to question the attribution of pictures that do not conform to the model, and to value less highly those that do not fit the mold.

Because Artemisia returned again and again to violent subject matter such as Judith and Holofernes, a repressed-vengeance theory has been postulated by some art historians, but other art historians suggest that she was shrewdly taking advantage of her fame from the rape trial to cater to a niche market in sexually charged, female-dominated art for male patrons.


The most recent critics, starting from the difficult reconstruction of the entire catalogue of the Gentileschi, have tried to give a less reductive reading of the career of Artemisia, placing it in the context of the different artistic environments in which the painter participated.
A reading such as this restores Artemisia as an artist who fought with determination - using the weapon of personality and of the artistic qualities - against the prejudices expressed against women painters; being able to introduce herself productively in the circle of the most respected painters of her time, embracing a series of pictorial genres that probably were more ample and varied than her paintings suggest. | Source: © Wikipedia