“More savage than Caravaggio: the woman who took revenge in oil” – The Guardian October 2016

My tutor very kindly sent the link for this article that she had seen in The Guardian and which was questioning why the genius of Artemisia Gentileschi had been overlooked for so long?

The subject of the article was Artemisia’s 1612 painting of Judith and Holofernes and also her 1620 version too which was painted in Florence.  Artemesia had moved to Florence with her husband to escape the scandal of the rape trial and it is thought by many that the original painting was in effect a self-portrait due to it being painted either during or just after the trial.

The article states that the two paintings are almost identical except for the colour of Judith’s gown which in the Florence version it is yellow but in the original it is blue but when you look more closely there are other differences such as the lighting, the weight of the figures on the bed, the sword is different, the spurt of the blood and the blood on the bed as well as subtle differences in the poses of the women – oh and also in the later work Judith is wearing a jewelled bracelet … these are just the obvious differences and these paintings will be the subject of my essay as they are fascinating to compare.

The article speaks of the fact that Artemisia is now recognised to be the greatest female artist of the baroque period and also one of Caravaggio’s greatest followers – his own painting of Judith and Holofernes had a great influence on her own.  The author of the article points to the fact that not only did Artemisia achieve great success but she also achieved the fact that she ‘communicated a powerful vision’ (Jones, 2016) and also mentions the autobiographical nature of her works – she literally painted her life.

The majority of the article speaks of her life and the trial and also mentions how she escaped as far as she could from Rome to escape and by the 1620’s had become a successful artist in how own right – bearing in mind she was married and no longer under the influence or orders of her father.  Artemisia ‘wrote’ with her paintbrush what she wanted to portray to the world as she was illiterate and could barely read.

A 1622 painting Susannah and the Elders is going to be part of an exhibition at the National Gallery in London, Beyond Caravaggio,  that I had hoped to visit and would have really loved to but  unfortunately finances and the distance to get to it from Derby means it is looking likely that I will not be able to.


Jones, J. 5 October 2016.  More savage than Caravaggio:  the woamn who took revenge in oil [online]. [Date Accessed:  November 2016].  Available from:  https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/oct/05/artemisia-gentileshi-painter-beyond-caravaggio


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