It seems extraordinary today to see someone so talented be ignored like this, but there are other cases where similar has occurred, and not always to female artists either. Art history can go through fashionable phases where an artist can disappear before then returning again a century or so later. Artemisia Gentileschi's artistic talents are now being as strongly recognised as perhaps they ever have been and the growing desire for true equality of representation across society is providing a further impetus to this. Whatever has caused this increased exposure of her career, it doesn't really matter, but what is important is that she is no-longer regarded as the "daughter of" or the "victim of", but rather a highly skilled painter from 17th century Baroque Italy. One suspects, that is all she ever really wanted.
Until only very recently females such as this were applauded for their achievements, made despite their gender. As opposed to being treated as artists in their own right. There was also a belief that genius was something that only men could achieve. Even some female historians followed these lines, which seems extraordinary today. Thankfully, things have changed considerably in that regard. We now have large numbers of successful female artists, as well as a number of women with prominent positions in the major art institutions across the world. There may still be some way to go in order to achieve full equality, but considering the life of Artemisia Gentileschi will remind us of just how much progress has been made in order to get us to this point.
This biography will examine the major works from this artist's career as well as examining her travels around the country and abroad. For example, she lived in Florence, Genoa and Venice at different times in her life as well as Naples later on. She also joined her father in the UK for an extended period of work which again broadened her horizons. It took her a long time to initially break away from the comfort of home life, where models were accessible on an almost daily basis and her father was on hand to provide tutoring at the drop of a hat. This also, though, slightly stunted her creativity and it was only after she left that she could truly make the most of her potential, by drawing in other influences and ideas. The biography captures all major moments in her life, from this initial family life, to several turbulent incidents which set her back emotionally, to then her trips abroad and her rise in popularity and academic success.
Artemisia was the daughter of painter Orazio and born in Rome on the 8th of July, 1593. He himself was a true follower of Caravaggio and this influence would rub off on his daughter through his continued tutoring of her. As her career developed she never lost this original inspiration and she became collectively known by some as the world's only "Caravaggista". During her time living with her father there was an endless supply of models from which to develop her craft, though sadly this accessibility would ultimately lead to a tragic event in which she was raped by another artist. Justice was delivered, in part, by a court conviction but Agostino Tassi's punishment was never deemed sufficient. This whole event unsettled the young woman, understandably, and she no-longer felt comfortable living in Rome with her father.
The artist chose to marry a fellow artist by the name of Pietro Antonio di Vicenzo Stiattesi and they relocated to his native province of Florence. This gave her breathing space from her recent experiences in Rome and also she was able to make use of his extensive connections and wealth in order to better promote her career, as well as starting to forge a more unique style to her work. Whilst their bond was not particularly romantic, this move certainly helped Gentileschi's career to push onwards and leave her family ties behind, at least for the timebeing. They had a daughter together. She developed some impressive connections whilst living in this artistically-significant city, including the likes of King Philip IV of Spain, Cosimo de' Medici and even astronomer Galileo. These experiences appear to have pricked her curiosity about completing further travel in the future.
Artemisia relocated to Rome in around 1620, perhaps due to the turbulence in her personal life. She would focus on her career development whilst here, and her ties with both her husband and lover would drift into the distance. She found a rich variety of donors available within the city, and this enabled her to flourish artistically and financially. The Caravaggisti artistic style was also popular across the city, helping Artemisia to pull in commissions, though she also kept an eye on other artistic styles flourishing in Rome at the time, in order to best evolve her own approach.
Whilst achieving financial stability in Rome, Artemisia’s desire for the richest paying commissions would always be blocked. Consequently she decided to move on once more, this time to Venice. She remained here from 1626/7–1630. Little information remains on her time here, or the works that she produced, but any evidence that does remain would suggest that her success continued to flourish during this period.
She moved to Naples in 1630 and would remain here for the rest of her life, other than for a short period in England with her father. Artemisia would draw in new influences again whilst here, and also started to work directly with religious institutions for the first time. Her reputation had already been established here before arriving, allowing the artist to thrive from day one. A number of Caravaggisti painters had already achieved success in Naples, and so her own approach was entirely familiar to local tastes.
In 1638 Artemisia Gentileschi was invited to the court of Charles I to work alongside her father, Orazio. The monarch was highly knowledgeable, indeed passionate about the arts and was keen to continue to expand his collection. She would complete a number of prestigious commissions for members of the wider royal family until 1642, but after the death of her father she decided to return to Naples, where she would spend the remaining years of her life.
Artemisia Gentileschi is believed to have died around 1656, though the precise date has been speculated upon for many centuries. Some argued that she had passed away around four years earlier than that, but commissions have since been uncovered that occured after that date. Her place of death was Naples, and this city experienced a plague in the year of 1656 that is likely to have caused her demise, along with the majority of the rest of the artistic community. This has not been conclusively proven, but is certainly the most likely explanation, considering the evidence in front of us. It is unlikely that all these years later there will be any new evidence to add to these discussions, and we may now be left with this date of circa 1656 as her accepted date of passing.
Few artists in history have left as strong a legacy as Artemisia Gentileschi, considering her achievements in challenging the male-dominated art world of the time and going on to establish herself as a respected artist. The inspiration can be felt not just by other women who come up against similar challenges in their own industries, even today, but also by other minorities who struggle against the majority in order to be given a fair chance. In recent years there has been a growing interest in those artists who were perhaps forgotten or ignored because of attributes with which they were born, rather than their own natural talent and ability, and Artemisia Gentileschi is just one of many who receives an increased focus as a result of this. In terms of the fight against misogyny, many also gain inspiration from the likes of Frida Kahlo too.