“My illustrious lordship, I’ll show you what a woman can do.”
The Baroque artist, Artemisia Gentileschi is not known for a light and frothy style. By any standard, Artemisia’s paintings are powerful, her imagery striking.
To begin with, she often chose as her subjects strong women – whether from myth or the Bible. Among the best-known are Susanna, Esther, Judith, and Mary Magdalene . But Artemisia’s own story is compelling.
Born in 1593, Artemisia was introduced to painting by her father, Tuscan artist Orazio Gentileschi .
Rape and Trial
In 1611, Artemisia was raped by fellow artist, Agostino Tassi.
In the expectation that they would be married to restore her honor, Artemisia continued to have sexual relations with Tassi for nine months. When it became clear Tassi would not or could not marry her, Artemisia’s father pressed charges against him.
During the seven-month trial which followed, it was learned that Tassi was married and had planned to murder his wife. Meanwhile, Artemisia was tortured with thumbscrews, to validate her testimony.
Though Tassi was sentenced to exile from Rome, his sentence was never carried out.
After the trial, Artemisia married another artist, Pierantonio Stiattesi. The couple later had five children.
Professionally, Artemisia enjoyed success in Florence, Naples, Rome, and London .
Artemisia was the first woman to become a member of the prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing). Her patrons included the Medicis and King Charles I of England. She maintained relationships with other respected artists of her day, and was acquainted with Galileo.
Artemisia’s earliest surviving work Susanna and the Elders (painted at the age of 17) is now exhibited in the Schloss Weisenstein Collection in Germany. Artemisia’s Judith Beheading Holofernes hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Italy. Her Esther and Ahasuerus can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Whatever impact Artemisia’s rape may have had on her life, it did not limit her art. That qualifies as a triumph.
 Wikipedia, “List of Works by Artemisia Gentileschi”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Artemisia_Gentileschi.
 Wikipedia, “Artemisia Gentileschi”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_Gentileschi.
 The New Yorker, “A Fuller Picture of Artemisia Gentileschi” by Rebecca Mead, 9/28/20, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/10/05/a-fuller-picture-of-artemisia-gentileschi.
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