Date of Award

Spring 4-27-2018

Document Type

Capstone

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Visual & Performing Arts; College of Arts & Sciences

First Advisor

Jill Pederson

Abstract

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1654) grew up in Rome during the late sixteenth, early seventeenth century. She was unable to study art at the academy because she was a woman. Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, was an accomplished artist who taught his daughter to paint. In 1610, Orazio hired Agostino Tassi, another successful artist who had worked with Orazio before on various commissions, to teach Artemisia the rules of perspective. In 1612, Tassi was charged by Orazio with the destruction of property. It was discovered that a year prior, in 1611, Tassi forcibly deflowered Artemisia before beginning a regular sexual relationship with her. He promised Artemisia marriage which kept the Gentileschi family quiet about the matter. Tassi then reneged on that promise and Orazio, fearing the possibility of a ruined reputation, brought him to trial.

Despite this, Artemisia became a successful artist during her time. For centuries, however, Artemisia was overlooked in history as many of her works were wrongly attributed to male artists after her death. In the late-twentieth century, with the emergence of feminist scholarship within the field of art history, scholars began to argue for her authorship of a number of paintings, causing Artemisia to receive the recognition she deserves. This scholarship also heavily focused on her early biography and made the connections that the female figures Artemisia depicted were self portraits: either literally or figuratively. I will instead be visually analyzing Artemisia’s Pommersfelden Susanna and the Elders, Uffizi Judith Beheading Holofernes, and St. Louis Danaë in comparison to paintings of similar themes by her male contemporaries (figs. 1, 2, 3). I will demonstrate that Artemisia painted her works differently than the male artists in that her work was more sympathetic to the female characters, did not displaying them in overtly sexual manners, and she painted them as powerful figures.

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