You Know Artemisia Gentileschi—Check Out These Other Women Renaissance Artists Now | Smart News

Elisabeth Sirani (1638-1665), Portia injuring her thigh1664, oil on canvas
Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts / Collezioni d’Arte e di Storia della Fondazione della Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna

Thanks to feminist scholars of the last century, Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) went from a footnote in art history textbooks to something of a household name. His works now number in the millions. In 2020, the National Gallery in London held a successful solo exhibition of Gentileschi’s art – the museum’s first-ever exhibition dedicated to a single artist.

Still, those who wish to shine the spotlight on Gentileschi would do well to broaden their scope. As a new exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) declares, Gentileschi was one of many female artists who forged successful careers in Italy leading to the Enlightenment. Until May 29, “By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800” features masterpieces made by 17 Italian women to advocate for a broader vision of women’s participation. women in the Italian Renaissance.

Artists featured include the skilled self-portraitist and court painter Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625), the Bolognese portrait painter Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614), the Milanese painter Fede Galizia (1578-1630), and the Bolognese painter and printmaker Elisabetta Sirani (1638-1665), in addition to a number of lesser-known female artists, according to a statement from the DIA. Fellows Eve Straussman-Pflanzer and Oliver Tostmann co-curated the exhibit, which was jointly organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, and the DIA

A self portrait of a woman in a blue dress holding a lute and gazing intently at the viewer

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-portrait as a lute player1615-1617, oil on canvas

Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts / The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Charles H. Schwartz Endowment Fund, 2014.4.1

The curators hope the exhibition will help visitors understand how Gentileschi and other early Italian artists succeeded in the male-dominated art world from the 16th to 18th centuries, as well as spark conversations. broader on “the dynamics of gender and power in the contemporary world,” according to the statement.

Speaking with Maureen Feighan from Detroit News, Straussman-Pflanzer explains how patriarchal structures prevented many women from participating in the commercial art market. Fine arts academies opened in the 16th and 17th centuries but refused to accept women. Later sexist scholars overlooked women’s artwork or even mislabeled it as the work of their male contemporaries.

“For the 17 women depicted here, there were dozens more either we know simply by name or of whom we have no surviving works,” says Straussman-Pflanzer. “I hope people see that there were female artists at that time. But there are a lot of female artists who haven’t been discovered yet, but we know they existed.

Gentileschi is perhaps best known for the traumatic events of her young life. When she was 17, she was raped by fellow painter Agostino Tassi. Her father, also a painter, sued Tassi on her behalf. During a psychologically and physically brutal trial, Gentileschi offered moving testimony and even endured torture to “prove” his story. Her rapist was found guilty but never punished.

A portrait of a woman dressed in pale white, making eye contact with the viewer and holding an open book in her hands

Sofonisba Anguissola, The artist’s sister in a nun’s habit1551, oil on canvas

Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts / Southampton City Art Gallery, purchased 1936 through the Chipperfield Bequest Fund, 1979/14

It is therefore no coincidence that Gentileschi completed his probably most famous painting, Judith decapitating Holofernes (16) shortly after the trial, art critic Murray Whyte reports for the boston globe in December. The work depicts a biblical story of revenge, where Old Testament heroine and Hebrew widow, Judith, mercilessly beheads an Assyrian general, Holofernes, to save her people and defend her village from destruction.

While this painting resides in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the DIA has a related masterpiece: Judith and HServant with the head of Holofernes (1620), which depicts Judith in a tense moment after the beheading. Gentileschi’s dramatic use of light and shadow strongly resembles the chiaroscuro technique employed by the famous professor Caravaggio, according to the DIA.

Gentileschi later married, moved to Rome, had five children, and went on to establish herself as the most successful female artist of her generation. Other notable works by Gentileschi in “By Her Hand” include the recently rediscovered Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Self-portrait as a lute player. As Jason Farago reported for the New York Times in 2021, Gentileschi’s self-portraits helped promote his work to clients abroad, attracting clients such as Charles I of England, who reigned from 1625 to 1649.

A hedgehog sits near a collection of stones, acorns, shells and leaves

Giovanna Garzoni (Italian, 1600-1670), A hedgehog in a landscape1643-1651, Bodycolor on vellum

Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts/Private Collection, West Hartford, Connecticut

Several of the women featured in the exhibition thrived in Bologna, which became a haven for female artists in the 17th century, writes art historian Babette Bohn for The history of art. For example, the painter Fontana was able to make a living as a portrait painter working almost exclusively for wealthy clients and rose to prominence by the end of the 16th century as the “portraitist of choice among noble Bolognese women”, according to the Museum. National Women in the Arts. (NMWA).

Artist Sirani, meanwhile, supported her parents and siblings from an early age after her father, also an artist, was incapacitated by gout, according to NMWA. She received commissions from members of the wealthy Medici family and mentored several other young women, including her sisters Barbara and Anna Maria, who would become professional painters themselves.

The highlight of the exhibition, Sirani’s Portia injuring her thigh (1664), depicts a scene from The Lives of Plutarch, a series of biographies of famous Greek and Roman men written by the first-century philosopher. In Plutarch’s story, Portia stabs herself in the thigh to prove her loyalty to her husband, Brutus, and uncover the secret details of his plot to assassinate the Roman general Julius Caesar. Sirani’s interpretation of Portia has been hailed as a proto-feminist vision, according to auction house Sotheby’s, which sold the work for half a million dollars in 2008.

The exhibition will also feature a documentary series “On Visionary Women”, focusing on the works of contemporary women artists Hilma af Klint, Eva Hesse and Ursula von Rydingsvard, as well as music by the Sonnambula Consortium, an instrumental group dedicated to bringing light to light. of unknown compositions. played by period instruments, according to the DIA statement.

“This is a rare and exciting opportunity for Detroit audiences to see works of art by so many talented Italian artists. It is interesting to examine how their experiences parallel or differ from today’s female artists,” Straussman-Pflanzer says in the statement.

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