Both portraits feature the artist posing as the subject, and it has been concluded that she used the same study drawings as preparation for both pieces. We already knew that she loved to promote female figures from the past within her work, and these two paintings are amongst the most famous examples of that.
Artemisia believed that by incorporating her own image onto the faces of major figures from the past, she was almost turning herself into a leading female personality herself. Additionally, in promoting her own appearance, she would help to build her brand as an artist, which often came in handy when seeking some of the more notable commissions that were available at the time.
Difference Between the Two Paintings
On initial inspection, one might conclude that the two paintings are near identical. Indeed, it comes as no surprise that both came from the same study drawings. There are however a number of differences if we look closely. The most obvious is of the portrait's headwear - in the example in front of us here, there is no cloth wrapped around her head, with only the crown visible.
The other version displays a cloth which covers most of the crown, before hanging down behind her back. A second difference to note is the angle of her eyes, with one artwork aiming her view directly at us, whilst the other has her looking across the canvas to our left hand side.
The broken spiked wheel found in the alternative version is much more prominent within that work, where as here we can see perhaps the same item in the bottom left corner, but most of it is hidden away from our view. Indeed, potentially it might even be something else, such as an easel, or a table or chair.
Aside from these main differences, the rest of each painting is composed in much the same way, with her arms and hands angled in much the same way. She also wears the same dress, and her hair is presented in the same way too. There is a slight difference between the backgrounds, with this painting being entirely blacked out, where as the alternative self portrait features a subtle lighter region just by her right shoulder.
Location, Size and Medium
Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Artemisia Gentileschi is now owned by the Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy. The painting was produced using oil on canvas and the overall piece measures 78 cm in height, by 61.5 cm in width, making it almost exactly the same size as the related artwork.
The artwork was restored in the 1960s and more recently was subjected to x-ray research which unveiled new information about this exciting artwork. The two pieces remain amongst the most famous paintings from Gentileschi's career, and perfectly summarise her ability to combine female figures from the past in positions of strength and power, whilst also appending her own image on top.
Larger Images of both Portraits of Saint Catherine of Alexandria
See below for both portraits, displayed together in a larger format. This should enable you to spot all of the differences as were listed earlier in this article. Both pieces have become well known within this artist's oevure, and are amongst the best examples of her work. Today, both items are celebrated for their contribution to female artists within the 17th century who achieved much, and knowledge of this is now starting to become much clearer.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria