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Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (Pittura)
by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1639, Italy

Susanna & the Elders (detail)
by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1610
Gentileschi's first signed and dated work
(painted at age 17).
Notes from WIKIPEDIA

"Artemisia Gentileschi (July 8, 1593–c.1656) was an Italian Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation after Caravaggio. In an era when female painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first female painter to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.

"She painted many pictures of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible – victims, suicides, warriors – and made a speciality of the Judith story. Her best-known image, Judith Beheading Holofernes shows the decapitation of Holofernes, a scene of horrific struggle and blood-letting.

"That she was a woman painting in the 17th century and that she was raped herself and participated in prosecuting the rapist long overshadowed her achievements as an artist. For many years she was regarded as a curiosity. Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and expressionist painters of her generation."

by Mary D. Garrard (1989)

"[In Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting] Artemisia herself...took witty and thoughtful advantage of her special identity as a woman artist to create an image that combined allegorical and portrait traditions in a unique manner. Her personal steeping in the intellectually sophicisticated Roman art world of the 1620's is summed up in this image, with its allusions to the important theoretical and stylisitic debates of the era. [...] The painting is infused with the expression of inner, not outer, worth, in terms that Michelangelo himself would have valued."

Illustration Notes from
"To appreciate [Artemisia Gentileschi's] Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (ca.1630-1640) is also important as an assertion of women's intellectual and technical equality as painters. To appreciate her self-portrait's uniqueness we need to understand Artemisia's use of Cesar Ripa's Iconology, a widely accepted handbook of symbols that specified that Pittura, or painting, should be personified as a woman wearing a gold chain with a pendant mask to stand for imitation, unruly locks of hair for inspiration, a colorful gown for skill, and a gaged mouth symbolizing the ancient saying that painting is 'mute poetry.' What makes Artemisia's self-portrait unique, as Mary Gerard points out, is that male painters could not use a self-portrait to personify painting since by established convention Pittura had to be a woman."
Illustration Notes from
ed. by Delia Gaze
"In the allegorical self-portrait that Artemisia probably painted in London around 1640 (see illustration TOP) sometimes dated 1630, she presents herself as the figure of La Pittura — immortally young, proudly displaying her snowy breasts at the centre of the canvas, her gold chain a sign of princely honours, and her unruly locks representing her untrammeled thoughts. Painting's right hand is poised to begin the work of execution on the empty canvas, but it pauses there, as Arte-mi-sia (or "May art be me") turns her gaze expectantly toward the light of the inventive intellect. The artist's colours are earthy, Neapolitin, Carravagesque, her attitude is rhetorical, inquiring, closer to the world of Cassiano del Pozzo and Tuscany. The confidence in her claim to fame is her own."
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