This is Part VII, on Artemisia Gentileschi's life story. If you missed some of the other parts please go to January: days 9. 16, 23, 30 and February day 37.
With the exception of a few years that Artemisia spent in England, Naples became her home for the rest of her life. It was there that her daughter, Prudencia (also known as Palmira) got married sometime around 1637. Artemisia trained her as a painter, but no paintings of hers have survived.
During that time, she moved to England, under the request of King Charles I. Her father had been working there, and with his health declining, Artemisia felt obliged to go. One could say that maybe there was an opportunity for Artemisia to finally spend some time with her father and reestablish their relationship before he died shortly after her arrival in 1639.
Mary D. Garrard says, “The painting that hangs today in the Kensington Palace, Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, may well be her major achievement.” She again used her point of view as a female to demonstrate in this self-portrait two themes never explored by a male. At the time, an allegorical female symbolizing the art of painting had never been done. She managed to show herself with unique expertise, something a male couldn’t have done. Also, she probably used at least two mirrors in painting her self-portrait, so that she could show herself in the action of painting.
It is believed that the King himself, if for the only reason that she was a rare woman painter requested her portrait.
Artemisia’s stay in England was probably no longer then two years. She went back to Naples where she had commissions to fulfill for patrons such, as Don Antonio Ruffo of Sicily.
From this long period in Naples, Artemisia most likely was present for both the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1631 and the political insurrection of 1647, but none of these events are mentioned in her correspondence.
She lived in Naples for the rest of her life. Mary D. Garrard says, “as Artemisia grew older, her work became more graceful and “feminine,” while this was to some extent part of a general shift in taste and sensibility, it must also have resulted from the artist becoming more and more self-consciously a woman painter.”
Only 34 paintings and 28 letters remain from Artemisia’s entire life.
There are no records of her death, perhaps because she was present during the devastating Naples plague in 1656 that killed two-thirds of the city.
1. Garrard, Mary D. Artemisia Gentileschi, Princeton University Press, 1991.
2. Christiansen, Keith and Judith W. Mann, eds. Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi. Exh, cat, Metropolitan Museum of Art. New Heaven and London, 2001.
3. Bal, Mieke The Artemisia Files, the University of Chicago Press, 2005.
4. Vreeland, Susan. The Passion Of Artemisia, 2002.
Artemisia, Agnés Merlet.
A Woman Like That, Ellen Weissbrod.