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, 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...

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 …

Guercino il Magnifico

Self-Portrait of the Artist holding a Palette, ca.1635

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino was born on February 8, 1591 in Cento, a small city near Ferrara. He is one of the great masters of the Italian Baroque and poet of painters. Noted for his speed and efficiency, Guercino also worked in a number of mediums with equal passion whether ink, chalk, charcoal, or oils. His nickname, which means 'little cross-eyes' in Italian, derives in part from an apocryphal childhood accident where he supposedly awoke from a deep sleep as a child from a loud scream that caused his eyes to cross. Another story says something was thrown into his eyes. At any rate, he was self-taught as an artist from as early as nine years old and by his early teens was discovered by the eldest of the Carracci where he would spend some time at the Accademia Degli Incamminati before venturing out on his own. Despite his apparent 'handicap', his vision and talent would make him a giant that few…

Old Master Drawings

Drawing is not the form; it is the way of seeing the form.

A male nude from behind, c.1630 Gian Lorenzo Bernini

In this blog I talk about painting but the importance of drawing cannot be understated of course, and I believe we can learn just as much from studying their techniques of line and strokes as we can from brushstrokes...more in most cases as the drawing is more expressive and intimate. It reveals the personality and character of the artist.

The above drawing apparently comes from the period of Bernini's teaching at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, one of four from the exact same model. This drawing is fairly big for a study, at 55.6 x 42cm (21 x 16 inches). Consider Michelangelo's study for Libyan Sibyl, is only 28.9 x 21.4 cm (11 3/8 x 8 7/16 inches), a small study for a fresco which would be painted several times larger than life size. I can only guess that Bernini was teaching a big class and that maybe his work was on display for students to study, or it ma…