Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI
(ca. 1593-1652/1653)

Italy
Artist

Among the leading contributions of Artemisia Gentileschi to the history of Western art is the influential role she played as a transmitter of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's ( 1573-1610) innovative artistic techniques. Along with her father, Orazio Gentileschi ( 1563- 1639), Artemisia carried Caravaggio's use of simplified forms, his use of realistic portrayals, and his use of dramatic lighting throughout Italy, to Florence, Genoa, and Naples.

Born into the artisan class, the daughter of Prudentia Montone and the painter Orazio Gentileschi did not enjoy the humanistic training that Sofonisba Anguissola (ca. 1532/ 1535-1625), the Cremonese painter, had received from her father. Nor was Artemisia able to attend a prestigious university and earn her doctoral degree, as did Lavinia Fontana ( 1552-1614), the Bolognese painter. In spite of a limited formal education, Artemisia received superior artistic training, serving as an apprentice to her father. Artemisia enjoyed the benefit of having as her teacher an artist whose work was highly regarded. Orazio's eldest child and sole daughter, Artemisia alone of his four children demonstrated an amazing gift for painting. Fortunately for Artemisia, the circumstances of her birth enabled her pursuit of a serious artistic career. Artemisia also found herself living in an important Italian artistic center during a period of artistic prominence. The abundance of major historical artistic monuments located in Rome, which Artemisia could study at her leisure, proved to be especially beneficial for her early training.

From the start of her career, Artemisia worked on full-scale compositions, many of which featured dramatic subjects. Artemisia has been most widely recognized for her dramatic studies of Judith and Holofernes. Her engaging paintings of the Old Testament heroines Susanna, Esther, and Bathsheba have also received praise.

Artemisia's Most successful paintings, completed before 1630, in-

-98-

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