17th Century Ladies: Artemisia Gentileschi

That’s her! Artemisia Gentileschi,  Self-portrait. Image taken from Wikipedia

I thought about writing two posts on two amazing 17th century women. The first post deals with, obviously, Artemisia Gentileschi.

It goes without saying that the 17th century did not offer great opportunities to women in the arts. Nonetheless Gentileschi was hanging out with some big shots and had important patrons going after her work. That is remarkable in itself, but on top of that her paintings are not what you would imagine from a woman painting on a time where most ladies tried to go unnoticed (unless they were royalty). She was not painting cute puppies, pictures of Hello Kitty or flowers (nothing wrong with painting flowers by the way, Georgia O’ Keeffe had some sweet paintings of flowers), she was actually painting stuff like this:

Judith Slaying Holofernes. Image taken from Wikipedia

There has been a ton of studies trying to determine how much of her own personal life went into some of her paintings, especially considering that she was raped (she gained some notoriety after taking the guy to court). Scholars are divided (as they usually are) as to how those events shaped her career; some point out she overcame all those difficulties to achieve her goals, others go to the extreme of saying she used the publicity of the trial to her own benefit. I do not think it matters too much, what really matters is that she was one of the best in a period where not only was it a male dominated society, but it was also a time where the standards to be considered a “serious” artist where really, but really high.


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