Monday, July 19, 2010
Artemisia Gentileschi was born to the Italian painter Orazio Gentileschi who took her under his wing after her mother died when Artemisia was twelve. She shied away from landscapes and portraits as the female painters of her time often painted. Instead, Artemisia crafted religious and historical paintings.
In an effort to enhance her training, her father hired his friend, Agostino Tassi to help train Artemisia. Tassi, however, proved to be a lecher and lout when he tried to seduce her. When his efforts failed, he resorted to raping his young student. After she reported the rape, Tassi offered marriage (!), however, he remained a lout when he reneged on the promise. Orazito sued on behalf of his daughter for breach of contract.
Tassi was eventually found guilty of the rape and sentenced to serve a one-year jail term. However, during the seven month trial, “Artemisia was tortured to make sure that she wasn’t fabricating her allegations.” (113)
Just a month after the trial ended, Orazio married Artemisia off to another artist in an effort to restore his daughter’s honor. The couple had several children, but only one, a daughter, survived to adulthood. Artemisia eventually left her husband.
She moved about Italy the next few years, living in Rome, Genoa and Venice. In 1630, she settled in Naples, where “her patrons included all the crowed heads of Europe at the time.” (113)
In 1638, King Charles I requested she come to England and Artemisia traveled to London, meeting up with her father, who was already painting for the king. Orazio died before finishing his work on the ceiling of Queen’s House in Greenwich, London and it is speculated that Artemisia finished the job in honor of her father. (115)
She returned to Naples in 1642 and remained there until her death in 1653.
Ignoble of the art world, her works were often attributed not to her, but her father. Recent interest in her works are rectifying this matter. It should not be overlooked that Artemisia Gentileschi was the first female to become a member of the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno in Florence.
Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats