Step aside Caravaggio; Its Artemisia’s Time

Artemisia Gentileschi, Danae (1612)
08 October 2017 Comments are off

Since the 1950’s and growing to a crescendo in the ‘80’s and onwards, the almost fanatic adulation of Caravaggio has drowned out the lives and works of many artists of the 16th century.

I want to talk about a woman no less, who in 1625 was eulogized with these words, “prodigy of painting, easier to envy than to imitate.” The life of Artemisia Gentileschi was tough, violent and devoid of the comforts even a Caravaggio enjoyed and of course being a woman meant; abuse! Born in Rome in 1593 of lower class origins, she grew up in a rough, violent household. After her mother’s death she was left alone with her self-serving father to guide her through life. In May 1611 Agostino Tassi, while working with her father, found Artemisia alone painting in the family studio. Tassi thought it acceptable to rape her and he did! She was 18 years of age.

Artemisia Gentileschi moved to Florence and gained growing recognition for her work. Among the many that flocked to her studio to admire her painting was Galileo and she was often found holding her own among the intellectual circles of that city.

Her personal inner strength and courage enabled her to transcend the obvious bias and prejudices towards women in her day, gave her the determination to paint and to drown out the social hypocrisy. As an artist of the Baroque period she had few peers. In her painting ‘Danae’ a confident female presence lives in the abandoned pose, with silky white thighs and calves, the dimpled knees and that clenched fist of orgasmic delight.

It portrays a rare intimacy and contact with the physical and emotional being of the female that a Caravaggio could only guess at portraying in his own paintings!

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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