London's National Gallery plans major Artemisia Gentileschi show
Returned to Artemis Magenta Leschi in two thousand eighteen the National Gallery in London announced that it had bought Genta Leschi self-portrait to sink Catherine of Alexandria that work has just been on a tour of unusual British venues from Glasgow Women's library to a doctor's surgery in Yorkshire a Catholic High School in Newcastle and a prison in send Surrey Tori is now back at the National Gallery ahead of a survey of gentlest work that opens at the Gallery in twenty twenty in January nineteen. I was joined by not at Travis the National Gallery's curator of later Italian Spanish and French seventeenth century paintings to talk about Artemisia and that remarkable new acquisition the teacher. Can you tell me I more we're about Artemisia. Gentle Leschi the woman and the artist. She's obviously a name now that many people have heard of not just people sort of in the art world or interested in art and I'd I'd say that's quite a recent occurrence <hes>. She was really sort of rediscovered in a way <hes> in the nineteen seventies. She featured an exhibition in L._A.. On women artists artists and a number of her works exhibited then and so she sort of came to the fore then and number of feminist historians focused on her and her work <hes> throughout the latter part of the twentieth century but it's only really since she started being the subject of shows monographic show in two thousand and one in New York and then more recent exhibitions that I think she really came to wider public. I think now she is not necessarily a household name but I think people have heard of her a third of her as an artist but also her life story and I think a lot of the interest around her sort of people's view of her as a kind of empowered women derives from her biography rather like carbohydrate zone biographical stories somewhat somewhat sort of overshadows the art but I think Artemis as an artist now is coming to the fore and I think that's I'm looking forward to working on this show in two hundred twenty because I think it's very much focusing on her. As a painter ops you can't ignore what was happening in her life and the big events that the that obviously influenced that's how life in Harare but it is very much artistic abilities. Can you tell us something of that biography then before we get into into the to the painting the nationals occurred. Uh ultimately has seen very much as a sort of exception. I think it's important say she was quite exceptional that she wasn't the only woman autism the seventeenth century. I mean there had been other successful artists before her. Aha but she was born in Rome to Aratu gentlest who was a well established painter in Rome and a lady prudence and Artemis mother died when she was just twelve so she was actually brought up in a male household so brutal by her father and she had three brothers she was in fact one of five to two died <hes> and the brothers and Artemis rule trained by rats here in his own workshop but it's clear that she was the one that he saw had greater talent than than the brothers <hes> and a and sort of everything changed when she was raped by Agostino. Tassie Passy was <hes> an extremely successful painter of SORTA Trompe l'oeil architecture and who was working at that time without C._E._o.. On a large project the casino limousine he was brought in to teach Artemisia Perspective and he raped her <hes> and they Taylor have sexual relations for some months and then he was brought to trial buyouts and this is very famous as perhaps the most famous episode in Artemis Life because remarkably all the trial documents actually survivor a large portion of survive so you can actually read optimizes own words in the witness box and you read the accusations against us. It's quite extraordinary to have that kind of sort of documentary evidence still survive from the seventeenth century and he's effectively found guilty of de flowering her because what what is bringing against Casey is the fact that not only did he rape his daughter but he didn't do the honorable thing and marry her afterwards and this is sort of idea the lack of honor the the so dishonor on his family. That's very much motivating the trial so he's found guilty although his punishments never enforced and Artemis married off two days as later to the brother of her defense lawyer and with him moves to Florence and obviously this episode was obviously a great tragedy in her life when she describes in in her own words is really violent attack on her. It is quite harrowing but I think if that had never happened. Her life would have been very different. She would have carried John. Working probably in her father's studio in Rome but as a result herbs sort of enforced moved Florence really was the making of her and it's incredible things that how she turned the situation around and really I mean I like to think in Florence. You really became Artemisia. She found her own sort of autistic voice and it's why she really gained independence in Florence and she's there for about seven years and then she comes back to Rome very different sort of person she's very much in demand very successful and we know this from letters says from her husband that survived saying you know they've got cardinals and princes around the house all the time. She after music doesn't even have time to eat. She's so busy and then in sixteen thirty she settles also in Naples where she lives till the end of her life at least sort of twenty five years and runs a very successful workshop. I says you pretty much stays in Italy except for a brief trip to London in the late. Sixteenth extent thirties which in itself is quite unusual for women to be traveling internationally. Elaine indeed just one thing about the biography that makes her have a certain currency. Today is as you say in those documents around the trial. It's clear that she is being put on trial. In the trial and and in fact is is is tortured a- as as part of that process I mean laws be made of that and I think there's been a very much more measured reading of those documents in a wider sort of frame. If you like particularly particularly <hes> one social historian Elizabeth Cohen quite a lot of work on actually the documents relating to the trials of young virgins in Roman that period and it seems as a sort of standard way of leading these trials and actually it falls quite within that I wouldn't call it a pattern but within that but if you really read carefully the words mean she was tortured by using the which were these ropes tightened around her fingers while she was in the box but the judge also beforehand is it will right if we do this and it's clear if if you really read the the original Italian it is clear that it's in a way that they're asking if they can torch her to in a way prove her innocence in a sense sort of <hes> just to make sure that what she's saying is actually true and and it is while she's the torturing her with a C._B._S.. That she says you know it's true. It's true it's true. She repeats the what she says is true and so I think in a way it was sort of in supportive her innocence in this situation. I think you can already read in the language. That's used that. It's in a way away to catch tassie out right now. The the making of her in artistically say was was her moved to Florence say something about her experience there what kind coin of Education for instance did she did. She have there and will she in another painter studio straight away. No I think the really remarkable thing is that she sets up independently. She was trained in her father's studio. You know these sort of kind of family workshop tradition existed since the Renaissance and not just in Italy but it was often a father to Assan workshop so it's quite new female members of the family would be involved but as I say after means is not the first loving Fontana. Her father was very successful. So do you know in a way has sort of training. Rome wasn't unusual as perhaps be unusual because she was a woman but the whole learning from your father your trade from your father wasn't unusual the fact of her moving moving to Florence and having to set up independently is the thing that really made her. I think we have no real indication of having a student with with pupils assault. She worked effectively from her has junior. It wasn't her home. Her husband was apparently a painter but very sort of modest kind of renown. She was the very first female MEL member of the Academy in Florence. She was member from sixteen sixteen so you know she. She arrived in around sixteen thirteen within two three years. She's already really established herself. That's a really shows incredible determination but also kind of recognition of her skill and I think it's partly to do with her resilience. I think it will start to do with who she came into contact with in Florence. Not you say how education but also the circles. She moved in one of her great sort of protect us. There was Michelangelo Buonarroti younger who is the great nephew of Great Michelangelo and Artemis is only documented picture in Florence is in the ceiling of one hundred thirty still today and there she is alongside other Florentine artists of her of her time so she seems to have integrators of quite quickly and Florence <hes> and one of her close friends was Christopher. No Laurie won the greatest painters in the seventeenth century in Florence who is also godfather to her son Christopher so she clearly immediately set us you know sort of entered into autistic circles intellectual circles because she was a friend of Galileo and she worked for the MEDICI and did did she carry her Caravan Jasko style that she would have learned in Rome with her two phones or did she very much incorporate new styles and influences from her surrounding same sex. It's such a hot topic. That's so discussed because she has been called a chameleon and and I think as a result of this now many pictures get attributed to her that aren't necessarily by her because you can still use it as a dolphin well. She's communiqu. She changes all the time I think in the kind of broad sense she is quite community. She can adopt US style but it's part of her sort of business strategy. I think so you know she spent twenty five years. Working in Naples pictures look look really neapolitan but of course they would. She's been living in Naples. She's working for Nipples and patrons and I think when she moved to Florence. I think actually more than Caravaggio it is her father is rats. Here's pictures and rats. Here's handling of paint that's most of present in her mind and in the picture the the National Gary bought <hes> <hes> you know the thing that became very clear as as the pitcher was being cleaned as just that technically the way she paints the flash and so on. It's very ratu still very present in her mind. I think we'll sure influences. She's looking at these Florida artists. She's frequenting. She's using Carter analogy that you see in Florentine painting at that time she's also painting pictures for Medici tastes so that it also makes sense but when she comes back to Rome in sixteen twenty that's when Carava Chisholm off to Caravaggio is death ten years after is when cartridges is really the height of its popularity and I think there is definitely a renewed interest in this heightened naturalism start lighting and you can see that in the pictures of the sixteen twenty s can can you say more about the circumstances in which he would have created the specific work which the national now has well. The conservations been really interesting because you know I think a lot of living has been spilt on Artemis but not a huge amount of being written about her technique and I think this is actually played such an important role in actually understanding after media. It's been a lot written about you know dating's and attributions and also sort of the Mall gender-specific interpretation of her pictures in the iconography but I think had technique is absolutely fundamental understanding astounding to me. It's not Jason. Weeding out the pictures that aren't by her that are currently sort of sitting in this sort of limbo so during the conservation the National Gallery painting. We noticed similarities with obviously rats. Here's painting technique we notice differences. The pictures very closely related to two paintings one. That's in Hartford <hes> Connecticut at the Wadsworth which shows is a self portrait of her playing the lute and the other is a sin Catherine in New Jersey and the the suit of similarity between these pictures is not just sort of superficial fullness similarities but she's taken direct borrowings from one and the other. This is almost kind of amalgamation of these two other pictures which she knows sheds. It's light on her practice. You know how did she did. She transfer these designs to choose tracings. I mean we know how far the rats here uses tracings a lot <hes> did she have these three pictures which is in the studio once <hes> did the pro sort of composition evolve in the national painting. Does she know exactly what she was doing. From the very beginning I mean there are certain technical aspects of the pitcher the suggest it did evolve into Katherine. I'm perhaps didn't start its life as Catherine so I'm very interested also in how she uses her own image so the picture in halt that is clearly a self portrait very characterized face and all is a little bit idealized and I think there's been too much discussion in the post about whether picture easel isn't a self reporter. I think there's a kind of disguise self portraiture in a lot of her works where <hes> she would clear have expected people to kind of vaguely recognize her features a note. It was painting by women of a woman who looked like Artemisia but it doesn't necessarily have to be a self Putin a very literal sense. I think that's that's a really interesting aspect isn't it because how much of it is in that is almost like an advocate for for her capabilities and also for for her personality for her strength or strength of character and it's very easy easy to read biography into it isn't it because it's such a striking image and we know about this history of hers. Yes I mean I've had inquiries from the public. Since we announced the acquisition was saying you know other you know signs of torture on her fingers.