December starts with amazing news: The Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain will exhibit permanently its only painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, The Birth of Saint John the Baptist. This painting had been hidden from the public for many years, leaving the warehouse of the museum only to be part of some exhibition abroad.
Although it is good news for art lovers and Gentileschi’s fans, this is only a very little step. The Museo del Prado, one of the most important in Europe, only has works of SEVEN women artists. And until now, only four paintings were on display permanently. If one considers that the museum’s collection has approximately 1.700 paintings, the difference is abysmal.
The director of Museo del Prado, Miguel Falomir, has acknowledged that the Prado has not been fair with women artists until now; and he also promised to hold more exhibitions of female artists as well as increase the collection of women’s works in the museum.
The Birth of Saint John the Baptist
This painting is one of a series of scenes showing the life of Saint John the Baptist that was commissioned in Naples from Gentileschi, Massimo Stanzione and Paolo Finoglia. They were painted for a chapel dedicated to this saint in the grounds of the Palace of Buen Retiro in Madrid.
The work is dated c.1635, first because in 20th July of the same year, Gentileschi told to Ferdinand II de Medici, the great duke of Toscana, that she was painting a canvas for the Spanish Viceroy, count of Monterrey. And for the details in the female characters and the landscape that set it closer to other works painted around the same date.