Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 - c. 1653)

Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian Baroque painter. At a time when female painters were restricted to portraits or still lives, Artemisia was unique in establishing herself as an accomplished history painter. She was the first woman to be a student at Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.

Due to her father being a painter, Artemisia could receive an artistic education from an early age. Artemisia was sexually assaulted and raped by her father’s colleagues and agreed to marry the man who raped her, Agostino Tassi, in order to save her reputation. Tassi broke off the engagement which resulted in Artemisia’s father suing Tassi. A connection is often drawn between Artemisia’s rape and her depictions of powerful biblical or mythic women. Judith Slaying Holofernes is a great example of this, portraying two women cutting a man’s head off as the blood sprays from his neck. Some might argue that Artemisia’s personal history overshadows the fact that she was a well established painter with exceptional technical talent. Her style was influenced by a strong use of chiaroscuro and Caravaggio’s dramatic realism.

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