Artemisia Gentileschi

Hi everyone! This week I wanted to talk about Artemisia Gentileschi. Artemisia is one of the most well-known female artists of the Baroque time period; there are some others female artists as well from this time, but Artemisia appears to be the most well-known and well documented of them all.

To begin with, Artemisia was an Italian Baroque painter. She was born in Rome and begin painting in her father’s, Ozanio Gentileschi, workshop at a young age. When she was in her teens, she was raped by Agostino Tassi, who had promised to marry her (and he never did). And she had to go through a trial, where the men were almost reluctant to believe that she was raped. Afterwards, she went to Florence and married Pierantonio Stiattesi. She also became a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno, and she did artworks for the Medici family and Charles I of England.

One painting I wanted to discuss of is Judith Beheading Holofernes created in 1620.

Judith Beheading Holofernes created in 1620

Image from Uffizi Gallery

In this painting, we see the biblical story of Judith. In Israel, there was a siege by the Nebuchadnezzar’s army during Judith’s time. In order to save the city, she had to get rid of the army. Therefore, she tricked Holofernes by pretending to seduce him, but instead, Holofernes became so drunk (before anything could happen) and he fell asleep. When he fell asleep, Judith, with the help of her maidservant, went to kill Holofernes (

This painting shows the moment when Judith is cutting Holofernes head off. In this painting, we can see that Artemisia represents as a strong, unbothered woman; in essence, she did not even hesitate to kill this man when she knew he was a threat to the city.

This painting truly represents the skill that Artemisia had as a female artist. I learned in class that Artemisia would not have been able to have access to male models, since she was a woman (although she could have used her husband or men from her father’s workshop to influence her; however, she was not allowed to see male nudes). As a result, though, Artemisia brings a realistic representation of women into the art world. We can see in the Renaissance and sometimes in the Baroque that many men struggled with representations of women, but Artemisia is able to perfect the female body because she was able to have access to female models.

As a final note, studying Artemisia brings up a big question about how we should study women artists. In one of my classes, we discussed if it would be more efficient to study women artists separately from male artists or to integrate them into art history. I think that women artists should be integrated into art historical textbooks and classroom teaching; even though there were not many female artists during the Renaissance and Baroque, the female artists we do know about should be recognized in the same way that male artists are from these times.

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