Within the tightly controlled world of patronage during the post-Renaissance, women were largely ignored. Ignored, that is, until the arrival of an immensely talented artist.
Born in Rome to Orazio and Prudentia Monotone Gentileschi, Artemisia (b. 1593) grew in the shadow of her father’s fame as a painter. She would, during her lifetime, bring enormous changes to the world of art.
She studied with her father’s assistant and tutor, Agostino Tassi. In the midst of exposure to established artists like Michelangelo, she became embroiled in a rape case against her tutor. Vilified for her role in the trial, she was quickly married off to a Florentine painter, Pietro Stiatessi. Her rise to fame, in the midst of the jealousies and political intrigues which plagued the art world of the Medici, is a story memorably told by Diane Vreeland in her historical fiction novel, The Passion of Artemisia.
The effect of the the untrue, lurid, details of the trial were forcefully expressed in her work, Judith Slaying Holofernes (1612-1613). The power in Judith’s hands as she beheads King Nebuchadnezzar is palpable. Within the canvas lie the expression of her emotions. I believe it is her tutor who is being slayed by an unjustly slandered Artemisia.
It was in 1616 that she was elected, as the first woman, to the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence, the Academy of Art. Grand Duke Cosimo II de Medici was her patron and his support must certainly have encouraged such well deserved recognition. Her career flourished under patronages granted across Europe. She eventually settled in Naples where she died in 1653.
Judith Slaying Holofernes hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. As I stood before the canvas this morning, it occurred to me that the work could easily be an analogy of present day Italian life: Judith (Italy’s political leaders) cut themselves off from the much detested Euro and EU (Nebuchadnezzar) as her servant (Italian’s support) encourages the action. Though I doubt such will ever happen, my recent interpretation underscores the universality and timelessness of Artemisia’s work.
When you visit the Uffizi Gallery, please take time to pay homage to a ground breaking artist, one whose talents overcame the deeply prejudiced and male-dominated world of post-Renaissance art.
Artemisia shares space with Caravaggio in Room #5.
Some important notes about visiting the Uffizi follow.
IF YOU GO:
Open Tuesday to Sunday 8:15 AM to 6:50 PM
Closed all Mondays, New Year’s Day, May 1st and Christmas Day. Full price ticket, without reservation fees or additional exhibits is € 6.50.
RESERVE your tickets in advance of your arrival. (The museum is CLOSED on Mondays). The tickets must be booked and paid for on line. UFFIZI TICKETS.
Tickets are issued for specific entrance times throughout the day. If you miss your entrance time by more than fifteen minutes, you may be denied entrance. Should you miss your entrance time, the only other option is to stand in the public entrance line. This may mean a wait of up to two hours.
There are two entrance doors to the Uffizi. If you have a voucher / receipt for pre reserved tickets, present that voucher at the ticket windows inside Door 3. This door is in the west wing of the museum, across the courtyard from the main entrance at Door 1. With tickets in hand, go back across the courtyard directly to Door 2 (near the public entrance at Door 1). This is where those with pre-reserved tickets may enter.