Thursday, January 24, 2013

Allegory and Artemisia

Artemisia Gentileschi "Allegory of Painting" 1620's Musée de Tessé, France   
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593- 1656) needs no introduction from me, but this painting might. It has only fairly recently begun to be attributed to Artemisia, and was for some time thought to be the work of Giovanni Baglione (1566-1643) a contemporary and fierce enemy of Gentileschi's father, the painter Orazio Gentileschi (1563–1639.) In fact, as the young woman looks very much like Artemisia herself, it was felt that this piece was intended by Baglione as a cruel barb for Orazio's pride, showing his daughter lying degenerately on the floor amongst the tumbled attributes of painting, nude but for a convenient length of cloth. However, other interpretations have since arisen. The currently prevailing thought is that this piece was painted by Artemisia herself as a sort of demonstration piece of her own abilities, especially as the foreshortening of a figure on the diagonal is a very difficult technical achievement. The piece also seems more somnolent than seductive. The model's naked state is muffled with rich fabric, and softened with shadow. We should also remember that at this time, nudity was a double-edged sword visually, being employed to show erotic love scenes from mythology but equally frequently employed by artists to signify innocence and naturalness, the very opposite of artifice and deceit. Moreover, the handling of the paint is softer than Baglione's generally more hard-edged style.

9 comments:

Jane said...

Very nice. Have not seen this before!

Kate Stone said...

The pose is so atypical for the time--I mean, all the interesting bits concealed? Come on. What man would have painted that? I think it would have taken a woman to see the female nude with fresh eyes (and old eyes at the same time, since she sees her own naked body everyday), and choose to highlight such an odd angle. And also, such a lazy pose on such an uncomfortable floor. I think a man would have put her in a comfortable bed. Only a female artist in the habit of stripping down to look at herself as a reference for her own paintings would have thought that a painting like this made any sense at all.

Terry Strickland said...

Cool!

Nancy Bea Miller said...

I agree, doesn't seem to be pandering to the male gaze.

heddy said...

A palette, brushes and a lowered mask seem to be some more clues - I would guess to a self-portrait.

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Thanks everyone! Heddy, the concept of "the Allegory of Painting" comes from a book for artists called the Iconologia, 1593, by Cesare Repa. The Allegory of painting was presented as a woman, along with a chain, a mask, a palette and brushes and easel. There are long detailed reasons for each of these "signifiers" that might not make a lot of sense to us nowadays. But, back in the 1600's the Iconologia was consulted by viewers of art as well as by artists who wished to employ complex iconography in their work, so they were all on the same page. probably "decoding" the messages in the paintings was part of the fun! ;-)

Stav Theodor said...
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Stav Theodor said...

It is very hard for me to believe that this picture attributed to Artemisia. it is clearly a humiliating pose for a women and so very unlikely for her to paint it. more so, most, or I will dare to say, all of Artemisia heroines, have strong visible hands, while this figure's hands are missing, disappearing behind object and shadows.another reason why it is hard for me to believe that this painting is really a mastery of this great woman artist, is that Artemisia was trying to evoide sexual representations of herself after the famous trial against Augostino Tassi. She even changed her city of residence from Rome to Florence and got married- seems to me she was trying to escape the sexual women reputation and not to enhance it.

body painting said...

Old is gold also in the field of painting.