The Getty Museum Just Acquired the Recently Rediscovered Artemisia Gentileschi Painting That Set a New Record at Auction

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has made a major acquisition: Artemisia Gentileschis Lucretia (ca.1627), an impressive portrait of an ancient Roman noblewoman pictured just before she stabbed herself with a dagger.

The painting had landed in a private collection in Lyon, France for decades before it went up for auction in 2019 when it sold for a record-breaking $ 5.3 million at Artcurial in Paris, six times its estimated value. The hitherto little known work set an auction record for Gentileschi. In a pre-sale statement, the auction house said Lucretia was “worthy of the world’s great museums”; now it has been proven correct.

The Getty acquired the painting from an anonymous collector. A spokesperson didn’t respond to a question about whether the acquisition was a gift, a purchase, or a mix of both. Gentileschi’s works are hard to come by – there are only 40 in public collections, a small portion of which are in the United States.

The subject of this work – the noblewoman who, according to legend, wanted to die by suicide after being raped – is particularly important for Gentileschi, who was raped by her teacher Agostino Tassi at the age of 17. The horrific experience set the tone for Artemisia on selected topics, often depicting strong women who have suffered sexual violence.

“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 palpable in Lucretia’s suicide and other of her paintings, in which the central protagonist is a woman that has done wrong or abused, “Getty director Timothy Potts told the Los Angeles Times, adding that the painting” will open a window for our visitors to important issues such as injustice, prejudice and abuse that lie beneath the hauntingly beautiful surfaces such works lie. “

Artemisia Gentileschi, Jael and Sisera (1620). © Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

While the rape trial against her teacher made headlines in her life and defined Gentileschi’s story for centuries, recent exhibitions and grants have broadened our understanding of her work and identity. The National Gallery of London organized an exhibition of 29 paintings by Gentileschi, their first exhibition dedicated to an artist, which closed in January 2021. The artist’s tumultuous life is also the subject of an upcoming TV series with scripts from ViacomCBS International Studios.

In 2016 the Getty acquired a work by Artemisia’s father and teacher Orazio, which depicts Danaë (approx. 1621), which Potts described at the time as a “masterpiece of Italian painting of the 17th century”. The Getty also owns Orazios Lot and His Daughters, which has been a hallmark of the museum’s Baroque holdings since 1998.

In an announcement, the Getty Museum stated that Artemisia Gentileschi’s work will be on view when the institution reopens “in the coming weeks,” although no specific date has been set. Los Angeles museums recently got the go-ahead to reopen after museums in San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area after being closed for nearly a year.

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