Saturday, June 18, 2011

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith & Holofernes

Artemisia Gentileschi,
Judith & Holofernes

Artemisia Gentileschi was a young active artist in Naples, when she was raped by Agostino Tassi, former family friend, and worker partner of Orazio Gentileschi, father of the artist in question. After months of marriage promises without fact, the case went to court, because the accused didn’t want to keep his promise and so after trials and confrontations Tassi ended in jail for a few months and Artemisia married a painter, brother of the witness who defended her. This experience signed her life and fed her way of painting.

Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi is the classical representation, the revenge of a woman, who seduced by a man, asks for justice. The seductive and intelligent female painted by Artemisia recall the same subject matter executed by Caravaggio thirteen years before when the latter painted another resolute woman hacking off a bearded male head.

Artemisia’s work is more shocking, more resolute, and close to the scene of a woman’s kitchen, where we know everything can happen! The victim is the “animal” who caused pain and disgrace in her life and so Judith-Artemisia is symbolically decapitating, but also castrating the man, who raped her at the age of fourteen. Caravaggio’s victim, Holofernes, instead, is represented more as a heroic and absurd person in the desperate effort to live.

Museo di Capodimonte
The work by Artemisia has always followed the artist, even when she travelled around Italy in search of commission, until when in 1630 she decided to go to Naples, to stay for a short time and instead remained there until she died. Still today the work is in the National Museum of Capodimonte, where it can be admired by the art lovers!

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