Few days ago, the National Gallery of London informed its new acquisition, a self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi. It’s a self-portrait of the artist as Saint Catherine of Alexandria from about 1615-17. An oil painting that will undergo conservation treatment before going on display in the first months of 2019.
This £3.6 million acquisition has been possible thanks to the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery, the National Gallery Trust, Art Fund (through the legacy of Sir Denis Mahon), Lord and Lady Sassoon, Lady Getty and Hannah Rothschild CBE and other donors including those that preferred to remain anonymous.
Description of painting
It’s a tightly cropped composition that depicted a female figure turning towards the viewer. We know that she is a saint for the halo just above her head. Her left hand rests on the top of a broken wheel which is the symbol associated with the saint.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria is a Christian saint martyred in the early 4th century AD, who was sentenced to death by the emperor Maxentius. She was bound to revolving wheels studded with iron spikes and nails, but she escaped this torture though heavenly intervention, but later she was beheaded.
About Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi is probably the most celebrated women artist of Italian Baroque. Also, she is considered one of the most accomplished painters among the followers of Caravaggio. By that time female artists were not easily accepted and she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence. The list of her clients includes the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Charles I of England and Phillip IV of Spain.
There are sixty or so paintings attributed to Artemisia Gentileschi and the majority depict a strong model of female heroine as the protagonist. Her personal identity is closely intertwined with her artistic production, especially those she painted in Florence (1612-20), in which she used her image repeatedly. Some art historians believe this was a way she found to self-promote (as Rembrandt did in the Netherlands).
In England there are only two other easel paintings by Artemisia. They are: Susanna and the Elders in the Burghley House Collection, Stamford and Self-portrait as an Allegory of painting (La Pittura) in the Royal Collection.
Women artists at the National Gallery
There are over 2,300 works in the National Gallery, and 20 of them are by female artists in its collection and four works by female artists on loan to the Gallery. A list that includes artists as Henriette Browne, Rachel Ruysch, Catherina van Hemessen, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Judith Leyster, Rosalba Carriera, Rosa Bonheur, Marie Blancour, Vivien Blackett Madeleine Strindberg, Maggi Hambling, Paula Rego and Berthe Morisot.