Painting With The Girls 37
February 6, 2016
Day 37, (329 day to go).
This is Part VI of Artemisia Gentileschi life story. If you missed other parts for this story, please scroll down to Day: 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30.
It is clear that Artemisia’s successful career in Florence was bringing her fame. One might assume that Pierantonio wasn’t happy to hear about his wife’s success. As a husband of that time, I suppose he must have felt a pang of jealousy to hear about Artemisia’s acceptance at the Academia del Disegno. Being the first woman admitted was quite an accomplishment. She enjoyed the success and the friendships she gained there. It was in Florence that Artemisia received the protection and patronage of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Notable works from this period include La Conversione della Madalena, Self Portrait as a Lute Player, (in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art) and Judith with Maidservant, in the Pitti Palace. And one can’t forget the famous Judith Beheading Holofernes, which is now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
At the end of this period in Florence, Artemisia and her husband were experiencing financial problems. Documents found at the Academy where she was a member, show an exchange in communications about debts. It’s not clear to me why they moved back to Rome. Did something happen in Florence that caused Artemisia to think she had no more work opportunities?
At this point Artemisia became a skilled writer. Many letters have survived, and each letter shows a very proficient and eloquent Artemisia communicating with friends and patrons. She corresponded with Galileo Galilei for a long time after she left Florence.
When it comes to her personal life, there is very little reference about her children. She lost her youngest daughter in 1619. We know she went back to Rome with her oldest daughter Palmira and her husband Pierantonio in 1621. There is no indication of what happened to her two sons.
By 1623, Artemisia, while still in Rome, lost touch with her husband. Nothing more is documented about their relationship, except that right before he disappeared, he slashed someone’s face for serenading Artemisia’s window in Rome.
In the Census of 1624, Artemisia is listed as head of household, which indicates Pierantonio was gone.
I think it is true to say that one could read the whole story and make assumptions about her life. One could formulate all kinds of theories of what might have happened between Artemisia and Pierantonio. Was he in love with her but couldn’t handle her success and fame? Did he leave her for a lover? Did he start a new family? Was Artemisia only interested in her work?
It is in this period Artemisia is associated with the Academia del Desiose in Rome, and enjoyed the protection by the house of Savoy, where she painted the second version of Susana and the Elders.
Artemisia must have felt that Rome was not much of a lucrative environment. She moved to Venice for an unknown period of time, where she was commissioned to paint for Phillip IV, King of Spain, and the count of Oñate. She fled the plague in Venice in 1630, and went to Naples, where she lived for the rest of her life.