Uncover: Artemesia Gentileschi

As long as I live I will have control over my being.
— Artemesia Gentileschi

Artemesia Gentileschi was born in Rome into an artistic family where her father Orazio Gentileschi was a well known Roman artist. She grew up around famous artists such as Caravaggio (friend of her father). Her father encouraged her to paint and hired a tutor, Agostino Tassi, famous architect, to teach her different art perspectives. Tassi's relationship turned out to be volatile as he raped Artemisia and she eventually pressed charges. She was only seventeen at the time of her rape. In her long seven-month court case Artemsia was subjected to a form of torture sibille where they put ropes around her fingers and gradually made them tighter. While in squeezing her fingers they would continue to ask her questions and see if she would stick with her story. The torture would haunt Artemsia and fuel her artwork to come. Her story stayed the same and Tassi was found guilty but was locked up for just a mere eight months.      

One of the most famous female artists largely because of her success in the male dominated field of painting in her time. She was the first woman ever admitted into the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno in Florence.  Most women at the time were not fine artists and Artemesia was different from both her male and female peers. Some of her famous paintings include: Judith Beheading Holofernes and Susana and the Elders. In both of these biblical narratives it depicts the female as the heroine of the painting in a dominating position over men. Judith stands strong over Holofornes as she forcefully beheads him. Susana depicts a story of Elders that find the beautiful woman seductive and try taking advantage of her. In the story the men eventually go to trial and deny any sort of behavior showing the hypocrisy that fell close to home for Artemisia. These two paintings show the anguish and pain that Artemsia felt as a female and struggles in her own life. Her works as an artist were forgotten for many years but in the late 20th century her works were rediscovered and she has become an icon of feminist matriarch.


Written by Erin Remington

Source: NPR