8 Things You Might Not Know About Artemisia Gentileschi

Discover surprising facts about the iconic Italian Baroque painter

By Google Arts & Culture

Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) (1638-1639) by Artemisia GentileschiRoyal Collection Trust, UK

Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian painter who is considered one of the most accomplished artists of the Baroque period. Despite being overshadowed by many of her male contemporaries, she created incredible paintings from a female perspective – something that many of her peers could not do.

Let's get to know more about Artemisia through eight things you might not know about the artist and her work...

Susanna and the Elders (1649/1649) by Artemisia GentileschiMoravian Gallery in Brno

1. She created many of her famous works before she was 25

Born in 1593, Artemisia was introduced to art at an early age by her father, the painter Orazio Gentileschi. Some of her most well-known works, such as 'Madonna and Child' and 'Susanna and the Elders', were created when Artemisia was only 20 and 17 respectively.

Florence, Italy (2008-05-05) by Dennis FlahertyGetty Images

2. She was the 1st woman at the Florence Academy of Fine Art

Despite living in an era when female painters were not easily accepted into the art world, Artemisia was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno (Academy of Fine Arts) in Florence.

Galileo Demonstrating the New Astronomical Theories at the University of Padua (1873) by Félix ParraMuseo Nacional de Arte

3. She was friends with Galileo

One of Artemisia's most well-known friends from the Accademia del Disegno in Florence is the astronomer, physicist, and engineer Galileo. Without the invention of social media, the two had to keep in touch the old fashioned way – by letter.

Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) (1638-1639) by Artemisia GentileschiRoyal Collection Trust, UK

4. She used mirrors to create her self-portraits

To create her famous self-portrait 'Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting', it is thought that Artemisia might have arranged two mirrors on either side of herself, facing each other. This allowed her to paint her image from a perspective she would normally not see.

The Inclination (1615/1616) by Artemisia GentileschiCasa Buonarroti

5. She originally painted this figure naked

Artemisia created 'The Inclination' as part of a series of allegories at Casa Buonarroti in Italy. It originally stood out from the other canvases for its stark naked figure...

...it wasn't until a few decades later that this drapery was painted on top.

Eliot George 1819-1890LIFE Photo Collection

6. George Eliot wrote a novel about her life

Eliot (born Mary Ann Evans), the author of Middlemarch and Adam Bede, is one of the most highly-regarded Victorian writers. Her books dramatize gritty, real-life social dilemmas, a realism which could be inspired by Artemisia's style. 

But it's her novel, Romola, which is most indebted to the Baroque painter. Many episodes in the book, set in Renaissance Florence, are recognizable from Artemisia's life. 

An Allegory of Peace and the Arts (1635/1638) by Orazio GentileschiRoyal Collection Trust, UK

7. She visited London, and painted a ceiling for the Queen

Orazio Gentileschi, Artemisia's father and a well-known painter himself, enjoyed great success in London, becoming a favorite of King Charles I and his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. He was commissioned to paint the Great Hall ceiling of the Queen's House at Greenwich.

In 1638, it's said Artemisia joined her father in London and assisted him on his commission at the Queen's House. The father and daughter team collaborated on a rich and beautiful cycle of nine paintings called An Allegory of Peace. Now installed at Marlborough House in London.

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago (1974-1979) by Judy ChicagoBrooklyn Museum

8. She has a place at the table in contemporary feminist art

Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, a watershed moment in the history of contemporary feminist art, includes a place set for Artemisia, proving that the painter continues to inspire and empower to this day.

Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria' during conservation in 2018 (about 1615-17) by Artemisia GentileschiThe National Gallery, London

Discover more works by Artemisia Gentileschi.

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