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Artemisia Gentileschi, female artist

Updated on May 12, 2013

Yes, there were women artists back then!

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was rare in her talent, but also rare that she was able to continue to create her art at a time when women were only supposed to learn to be "proper ladies" instead of great artists.

Women would receive some artistic training that was not as complete as the training men received. Most women who received any art training did not pursue art as a career. Art was considered a hobby and it was mostly abandoned as they went on to be married and have children.

It's too bad that women are psychoanalyzed by art historians more than male artists are. The attitude is that the creature creates -- but how and why? Male artists don't seem to be analyzed in this way.

For many years, Artemisia's artworks were credited to other artists of her time, many were attributed to her father, who was also an artist.

During her teenage years, she was raped by one of her art instructors. This changed the mood of her art greatly.

This page was created to learn more about this fascinating woman artist.

Art training at early age

Artemisia was the daughter of painter Orazio Gentileschi, and was able to study with her father while she was still a child. She worked in his studio as an apprentice at about age 7. This was a great privilege. Later she studied with Guido Reni.

Violated

When Artemisia was a teenager, her father hired Agostino Tassi, a landscape and seascape painter, to teach her perspective. Tassi was known as an expert in perspective at the time. During one of the lessons, Tassi forced himself on Aremisia. Artemisia resisted and cut him with a knife. Tassi offered to marry her, but he did not follow up on this. Unfortunately, as a non-virgin, the mores of the time caused her to look upon the possibility of marriage to her rapist as the only hope for maintaining a respectable reputation.

Tassi never followed through on the marriage offer to Artemisia, so her father Orazio Gentileschi filed a lawsuit against Tassi when he found out.

The trial included physical torture of Artemisia to be certain that she was telling the truth. Tassi said that the sex was consensual. Tassi charged that Artemisia had been with many men before him, so Artemisia also had to endure a humiliating vaginal examination to establish her virginity was intact prior to the rape.

"It soon came to light that he had been sued for rape before, had impregnated his wife's sister, had arranged to have his wife murdered, and had obtained this same wife in the first place by raping her and then proposing marriage, as he had with Artemisia. The trial official cleared up any questions regarding Artemisia's virtue prior to the rape, but nonetheless left her marked for life in a number of ways."

-Virgil Elliott, The Portrait Signature, Journal of the American Society of Portrait Artists, Volume 4; 2000

Artemisia Gentileschi books on Amazon

Marriage

Artemisia Gentileschi married Pietro Antonio di Vincenzo Stiattesi. Pietro had testified for Artemisia at her trial. Agostino Tassi had claimed she was promiscuous, but Pietro contradicted this assertion. Pietro Antonio di Vincenzo Stiattesi was and artist from Florence, and that is where the couple settled.

After the move to Florence

Artemisia Gentileschi received several well paying portrait commissions and became a member of Academie del Disegno in 1616.

Several versions of the Biblical Judith Slaying Holofernes were painted. My historians believe that the fact that she painted heroic and violent scenes more than once shows her mental state from the rape and subsequent trial.

Great women artists - on Amazon.com

For more information

For more information about Artemisia Gentileschi , you may want to visit the following links:

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    • mariatjader profile image

      mariatjader 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens about an obscure but influential artist. Squid angel blessed*

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      nice! ;)