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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...


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