Artist profile: Artemisia Gentileschi – Powerful women

Every month, I profile an artist who inspires my own art,
in several segments.

Besides Judith, Artemisia Gentileschi painted other powerful women.

My eyes are up here.

Minerva (c. 1615)
Like many artists of her era, Gentileschi portrayed a mythical figure (the goddess Athena/Minerva) wearing clothes of her own time, not of Greece or Rome. I have no idea why she made the neckline so low – it is super low! Minerva’s face may be based on Anne of Austria (the French one, not the Spanish one). Gentileschi’s signature is at the top of Minerva’s shield.

Jael and Sisera (1620)
This scene bothers me more than Judith Slaying Holofernes. I’m not sure why, since there’s no blood in it and the victim is sleeping (or maybe that’s the very reason). In the Biblical story, Sisera was no less cruel an enemy than Holofernes – ruling the Israelites for 20 years. Fleeing a defeat, he sought refuge in Jael’s tent. When he fell asleep, she took a tent peg and rammed it into his head – eep! Gentileschi’s signature (using the name Artemisia Lome) is “carved” into the pillar in the center of the painting.

That’s my wig, loser-face!

Corisca and the Satyr (c. 1640s)
Gentileschi signed the painting, but the signature wasn’t discovered until the 1990s. The tale of Corisca and the Satyr is not an original Greek myth, but a story by Battista Guarini from 1585. The Satyr, as satyrs are known to do, attempts to get it on with the nymph Corisca, whether she likes it or not. She escapes when he grabs her wig instead of her real hair; as Christine Parker says on The Life and Art of Artemisia Gentileschi, “Woman eludes a lustful man by stripping off surface decoration and fleeing with her honor intact.” WIN.

Other parts in the Artemisia Gentileschi artist profile series



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