Artemisia or how women’s art comes into fashion

If you are a female artist, your time has come. Complex gender themes and experiences, female frustrations and ecstasies, intuition, and a sense of beauty are in demand at fairs and galleries. But not only the work of contemporaries comes to the fore. Rare works by craftswomen of past centuries have become the most desirable acquisitions for museum workers and lots for auctioneers.

A special place was occupied by the name of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653). In 2018, for the first time in 27 years, a work by a woman artist was included in the collection of the National Gallery in London (for £3.6 million, the museum purchased a self-portrait of Gentileschi from the London dealer Robilant + Voena). In October, “Lucretia” Artemisia (circa 1630-45) was sold by the auctioneers of the Vienna Dorotheum for 1.8 million euros, more than twice its estimate. The work “flew” to a private collection in Australia.

Artemisia Gentileschi is the star of the exhibition of women artists of the Baroque era, which opened at the Fine Arts Museum of Ghent. Her most famous painting, Judith Beheading Holofernes (circa 1620), went viral on social media as a protest against lenient punishment for sexual abusers during a series of poignant court hearings in the United States.

As always, it’s hard to tell if the market generates interest or popularity shapes the market, but the images of the vengeful “Judith” and the “strong woman” certainly excite society. And since Artemisia during her lifetime was called Caravaggio in a skirt, and in the 20th century several bestsellers were dedicated to her, the baroque painting of the great Italian cannot remain unclaimed. Even five centuries later.

The first woman elected to the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence – the first art Academy in Europe, Artemisia was the daughter of an artist and married to an artist (for Pierantonio Stiattesi, her father arranged the marriage). She made her debut with the painting “Susanna and the Elders”. She worked under the auspices of the Medici, was friends with Galileo. In the Neapolitan period of her life, she first received an order for fresco painting, in the town of Pozzuoli near Naples. In 1638-1641 she lived and worked in London under the auspices of Charles I. She created a scandalous reputation by going to court with a lawsuit against the artist Agostino Tassi for rape.

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