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Artemisia Gentileschi in Florence

Artemisia Gentileschi in Florence

In 2017 sexual harassment and violence against women, with the “Weinstein scandal”, has returned to the forefront of social discourse with the courageous announcements of actresses. We would like to honor this courage by introducing you to an extraordinary woman who faced domestic violence in 1611. As a painter, with great determination she succeeded in the heavily male-dominated art world of the 1600’s. Let’s meet Artemisia Gentileschi!

Women of this era that challenged themselves in this realm, remained confined to themes of still life, portraits and landscape which were considered better suited to female artists. Not so for Artemisia who challenged the status quo, painting biblical scenes, saints, mythological characters while using an array of warm colors. An attention to detail, light and theatrical settings were absorbed as she grew up in her father’s painting studio in Rome. Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, was both a painter and close friend of Caravaggio. Artemisia added with great skill, sensuality, pathos and the pain she endured when she was violated by Agostino Tassi, another friend of her father. She was just 17 when he stole what was most valuable in a woman of the time, her virginity.
Artemisia’s strong indomitable character gave her the courage to report the rape right away and take on the court proceedings that for a woman of the 1600’s would not have been easy to overcome.
After the court proceedings Artemisia’s father arranged a marriage for her to PierAntonio Stiattese, a Florentine and in 1613 the two moved to Florence. Life at the court of Grand Duke Cosimo II was a positive experience with regards to her future career. She met nobility, intellectuals, scientists, including Galileo with whom grew a long-standing and affectionate friendship that lasted until his death. She was the first woman to be admitted to the Academy of the Arts of drawing of Florence.

Michelangelo the younger, a great-nephew of the grand Michelangelo entrusted her to fresco in his family gallery the Allegory of Inclination represented by a sensual young nude that some say looks like Artemisia herself. The gallery was meant to represent the virtues and genius of Michelangelo. Her work was considered of such high quality that she was paid triple what the other artists, all male that participated in the project earned. Interesting considering the fact that we are still grappling with the issue of income inequality in our society today.
Another masterpiece by Artemisia is held in the Uffizi and is Judith and Holofernes which was probably painted for the Grand Duke Cosimo II around 1620. Artemisia underlined, with light shining in from the left, the drama of the scene. According to the biblical story, Judith invites Holofernes, the general of the army that has seized her city, to her tent. After getting him drunk, with the help of her servant, Judith beheads him and defeats her enemy. Artemisia will paint this scene many times depicting herself in the features of Judith which according to many art historians is tightly linked to the violence experienced as a young woman.

In Palazzo Pitti we find the painting The Penitent Mary Magdalene. The saint is represented as an ornately jewelled courtesan, dressed in a sumptuous gown but showing an interior torment with a painful expression looking up for comfort from her sins. Artemisia will leave Florence after seven years but not without leaving masterpieces now housed in various Florentine museums that Inlovewithflorence invites you to come and visit.


Caravaggio e i caravaggeschi a Firenze – Gianni Papi- Sillabe/Giunti
Artemisia Gentileschi – Tiziana Agnati – Giunti
Invisibile woman. Forgotten artist in Florence – Jane Fortune, Linda Falcone- TheFlorentinePress

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