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"Judith and her Maidservant", Palatine Gallery, Florence

Artemisia Gentileschi

Do you think that many of Artemisia’s female protagonists look alike? They are often self portraits. Artemisia (1593-1653) was one of the world’s greatest Baroque artists, achieved ample recognition as a painter in the Medici court, under the patronage of the Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici and the Grand Duchess, Cristina di Lorena. In a time when women artists were generally limited to portraiture and still-life painting, Artemisia became famous for her grand scale works depicting biblical or mythological heroines. She was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (in Florence) in 1615. Gentileschi was the eldest child of the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi and was introduced to painting in her father's workshop. Like her father, her style was heavily influenced by Caravaggio but her approach to subject matter was different from her father’s. Gentileschi's work had a sense of narrative drama which celebrated powerful heroines, while her father’s works are more idealized. As a woman who experienced violence in her own life, when she was raped by one of her father’s assistants, and then humiliated during the trial of her rapist, she painted many strong, but vulnerable women based on characters from mythology and from the Bible.