Skip to main content

The Gentileschi's

Artemisia Gentileschi - The Penitent Mary Magdalen - WGA8567   Gentileschi, Orazio-David Contemplating the Head of Goliath-c.1610

The Penitent Mary Magdalen, ca. 1622                David Contemplating the Head of Goliath, ca. 1610
Artemisia Gentileschi                                                          Orazio Gentileschi



Probably the only father-daughter artist team in history, the Gentileschi's were to capture the essence of Caravaggio and the Baroque. I had the pleasure of seeing a lot of both artist's work in Rome a couple of years back, and I always found their paintings moving and vibrant. Artemisia's fame eventually outshone her father's, and even to this day as a feminist icon with a film and a documentary made of her life she inspires women, but the study of Orazio as an influential painter and father needs to be recognized also. Comparing the two very different paintings above we see a stylistic similarity in graceful body language and expressiveness. Where the father and daughter similarities end is in use of light— Artemisia more deeply influenced by chiaroscuro and drama where Orazio favoured vivid colours and subtle dynamism. Artemisia of course would take tenebrism to an extreme with bloody violence but she also maintained her father's sensibility for grace and expressiveness in her other major works.



Madonna-and-child-Gentileschi
Madonna and Child, 1610
Artemisia Gentileschi


This painting has a very Rubenesque feel to it, and one of her best Madonna paintings. In a rare display of affection and maternal love, the Christ child gazes up to touch the face of Mary with a sense of maturity and respect beyond his years. Artemisia also shows her ability to utilize color when she wants to. Mary flows nicely in an s-shape with baby Christ counterbalancing, with nice use of red and blue. Despite Artemisia's reputation as bitter and misandrist, here we see a warm and tender side, as she did marry and have children later in life to confirm this.



Orazio Gentileschi - Young Woman Playing a Violin
Young Woman Playing a Violin, ca. 1622
Orazio Gentileschi


This stunning portrait shows a dynamic angle and highly expressive face that is unusually rare for a Baroque portrait. I like how the violin and box form an X. And the use of red and yellow underneath white against a black background heightens the drama. What a tribute to musicians and to women. Orazio deserves credit as a progressive father in an age where women were not taken very seriously at all in the arts.





Artemisia Gentileschi - Judith and Her Maidservant - WGA8566
Judith and Her Maidservant, ca.1615
Artemisia Gentileschi


Figures bathed in warm light against a dark background is not new, but that they are looking away from us off to the right is an interesting twist. Judith must have been a huge inspirational figure for Artemisia as a courageous woman who kills the enemy Assyrian leader without an army, but her own intelligence and a sword. It is difficult to imagine the effect her work must have had on women of her era but I'm sure they would have found her to be a heroine of the arts.


Orazio Gentileschi - Finding of Moses - WGA08582
Finding of Moses, ca.1630
Orazio Gentileschi


Orazio has anatomy that is oddly proto-Ingres in this painting. Compositionally the women form a triangle yet with the woman on the far left kneeling in green, her arm pointing to the baby Moses makes the entire figure arrangement into a square along with the woman holding the baby. The Titian inspired skies are evident here, but Orazio's unique drapery and colors makes us stop and observe here. The hands that point around the child form a diamond-shape around him. Note the arrangement of the women here also: two vertical, two horizontal, and three foreshortened in a near straight line. How Orazio manages to create detail in the trees behind them without distracting the foreground drama by sheer use of value and color is a tribute to his underrated genius. Artemisia came from good stock. This was a family that should have continued a lineage of painters...

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

More Old Master Drawings

There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body.
Robert Henri








Charles Louis Müller, A Standing Female Nude Leaning Against an Arch, ca.1864

Once again I decided to talk about some Old Master drawings and delve into the thinking behind how these drawings may have been created and the knowledge of the artist. In the above drawing by Müller, done in sanguine with white chalk highlights, the figure is drawn from a low view-point, with her body twisting toward her left side while resting on one knee. Note how Müller alternates the bent right leg with the bent left arm to create dynamic contrast. The right arm is also foreshortened and partially in shadow. Expressing power and femininity, this is a study that is Renaissance in spirit, even Mannerist, revealing the female nude as sculptural yet always graceful.







Anton Raphael Mengs, Seated male nude viewed from the back, 1755

One of several Academic nude studies by Mengs, this …

Bouguereau

Nymphs and Satyr, 1873


If there is one artist today that hardly needs an introduction, it would be William-Adolphe Bouguereau, supreme giant of 19th century Academic art. Born on November 30, 1825 in La Rochelle on the southwest of France, his talent would define the era he lived in only to fall into obscurity for decades after his death in 1905 until as recent as the early 1980's, shockingly. Today he has the distinction of being lionized by the Art Renewal Center as one of the greatest artists of all time while at the other end of the spectrum vilified by modernists as artificially perfect and sentimental. In fact it is quite rare to see such polarization over an artist of a calibre like Bouguereau, whose bravura is difficult to equal yet at the same time thematically his work admittedly tends toward women and children, a subject matter that sold well and he had endless patience for. Over the vast array of his oeuvre, some 820 paintings, I have tried to find some of his very b…

René-Antoine Houasse, French Classical Master

Dispute between Minerva and Neptune over the Naming of the City of Athens, 1689




Born in 1645 in Paris, René-Antoine Houasse was a French painter who worked in the Château de Versailles under his teacher, Charles Le Brun. Despite the initial impression of Classical formality, Houasse actually was quite musical and rhythmic in his compositions and had a very French palette. His figures are quite sculptural while retaining an elegance and grace regardless of gender.

In the above Dispute between Minerva and Neptune over the Naming of the City of Athens, Houasse divides the painting with light to add a stark drama to an otherwise Classically formal composition. Taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses, the first king of Athens, King Cecrops was looking for a patron god or goddess for his beautiful city, and both Mineva and Neptune fought to win the favor of the gods. Neptune creates the sea by striking his mighty trident into the ground, and while impressive, the gods didn't much care for s…