Getty Museum lands the Artemisia Gentileschi painting ‘Lucretia’
The bare-breasted woman holds a dagger to her bosom. Her sad face, cast in shadows, looks heavenly. The painting entitled “Lucretia” in honor of the Roman heroine who killed herself after being raped is more poignant because it was created around 1627 by Artemisia Gentileschi, who was herself a victim of sexual violence. The long overlooked artist is now considered the most consistent painter in Italy of the 17th century.
The Getty Museum announced Monday that it had acquired the painting from an unknown seller and that the work will be on view when the museum reopens to the public. The Getty has not announced a reopening date, but announced on Monday that it will be “in the coming weeks”.
Gentileschi’s life story is as fascinating as it is fraught with problems, and its disappearance on the radar of art history by the beginning of the 20th century speaks for the sexism of the art world. She became famous in her day, but not without great difficulty. She lived for a time in Florence, where she was supported by the Medici family and had notable personal success. In 1616 she became the first woman to become a member of the Accademia del Disegno, the first real art academy, after which she cultivated an international clientele.
Gentileschi was born in 1593 as the daughter of the famous painter Orazio Gentileschi. She studied under his guidance as a young girl. His legacy cast a shadow over their work, which was originally imbued with Caravaggio’s style.
The decisive moment in her life was in 1611 when she was raped at the age of 17 by the landscape painter Agostino Tassi, who worked with Gentileschi’s father on the vaults of the Casino delle Muse in the Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi in Rome. Gentileschi held Tassi accountable in the process in which she was tortured with thumbscrews to ensure the accuracy of her account. Tassi was convicted and sentenced to exile, but the punishment was never carried out.
“Her achievement as a painter of powerful and dramatic historical subjects is all the more remarkable for the abuse and prejudice she has endured in her personal life – and which are palpably unjust in Lucretia’s suicide and other of her paintings, in which the central protagonist is one or abused woman, “said Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum, in the announcement. “In this and many other ways, Artemisias ‘Lucretia’ will open a window for our visitors to important issues such as injustice, prejudice and abuse that lie beneath the bewitchingly beautiful surfaces of such works.”
In the 1970s, Gentileschi caught the attention of feminists when art historian Linda Nochlin explored her work in an article entitled “Why Were There No Great Women Artists?”