No woman of the past, at least as regards the figurative art of the Baroque age, was both artist and body politic more than Artemisia Gentileschi. Daughter of art of incredible and precocious talent, her work is known at least as much as a tragic glimpse of her biography: raped by her master Augustine Tasso when she was little more than a little girl, she had the courage to report him and testify against him. The story made the painter – rightly or wrongly – a proto-feminist icon, as well as helping to convey her notoriety through the centuries.
Artemisia Gentileschi, the exhibition in Naples
Although she is well known and many monographs have been dedicated to her around the world, a part of her life – that of her mature age – remains unacknowledged. And it is precisely in her mature age that the Neapolitan period of Artemisia Gentileschia whose Galleries of Italy – Naplesmuseum of Intesa Sanpaolo dedicates Artemisia Gentileschi to Naplesedited by Antonio Ernesto Denunzio And Joseph Porzio, with the special advice of Gabriel Finali, Director of the National Gallery in London. On display from 3 December 2022 to 19 March 2023, the exhibition – which brings together 21 works by Gentileschi from museums, foundations and private collections around the world – is organized under the patronage of the Municipality of Naples, in collaboration with the National Gallery of London, the Museum and Real Bosco di Capodimonte, the State Archives of Naples and the University of L’Orientale. The artist’s works are joined by those of his contemporary painters – among which Andrea Vaccaro, Massimo Stanzione, Paolo Finoglio and the semi-unknown Diana DeRosa – and who lived and worked in the Naples they hosted Artemisia Gentileschi between 1630 and 1654.
Artemisia Gentileschi to Naples. A submerged biography
«The Neapolitan period, which constitutes the final and least known chapter of the existence of the painter, was interrupted only by a two-year interlude in London, from 1638 to 1640 – explains Gabriele Finaldi of the National Gallery in London – the international collaboration in this case is it was particularly important for sharing knowledge and highlighting lesser-known aspects of the artist’s life and work». «We know a great deal about the first part of Artemisia Gentileschi’s personal and artistic life, much less about the second, when the artist arrived in Naples – continues the curator Joseph Porzio – the Neapolitan parenthesis extends for about a quarter of a century and is a particularly complex chapter in the painter’s artistic production. Until now, this complexity has prevented the creation of a focus entirely linked to such a period». In the process of reconstructing the Neapolitan cross-section, the documents made available by the State Archives of Naples were fundamental, through which it was possible to highlight important glimpses and insert this part of the artist’s life in an organic way in his biography. as well as getting to know the key figures who contributed to the artistic affirmation of Artemisia Gentileschi in Naples, such as Bernard de Dominici, which triumphantly introduced her to aristocratic courts and allowed her to try her hand at large-format works. The historical reconstruction was essential to create a coherent exhibition itinerary, expression of the themes dearest to the artist in this period: for the first time works such as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a recent acquisition from the National Gallery in London, compared with another Saint Catherine by the artist from the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm; besides the beautiful Judith and the handmaid with the head of Holofernes on loan from the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo. The works foreigners they dialogue – often for the first time – with the works home, coming from the halls of the Capodimonte Museum and from Pozzuoli. And it is precisely from Pozzuoli that the San Gennaro in the amphitheater and Saints Procolo and Nicaearestored for the occasion.
Artemisia Gentileschi and the forgotten painters
As part of the exhibition hosted by the Gallerie d’Italia, Artemisia Gentileschi – one of the few female artists of the seventeenth century I arrive also because she was born, fortunately for her, in a family context that supported and favored her – in this case she “lends” her notoriety to those who have had less luck than her. This is the case with Diana DiRosa (Annella)painter engulfed by time and long remained only a literary reference. «Absorbed by a strongly patriarchal family structure, Diana DiRosa it did not have the autonomy enjoyed by Artemisia Gentileschi, becoming a name without works»comments Giuseppe Porzio. At the center of the artist’s interest in his mature age arises a greater awareness of the balance of power between man and woman: the various Susannas tormented by filthy old men are contrasted by the Triumph of Galatea and the tenderness of I struggle with his daughters. The more mature and aware Gentileschi does justice to the younger and more tragic one, confirming a certain fact that has lasted through the centuries: women are always capable of rising from their own ashes.