National Museum of Women in the Arts Hosts Virtual Happy Hour: Artemisia Gentileschi

By Editorial Team on February 14, 2022
Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1620-21, oil on canvas, 162.5 x 199 cm (Uffizi Gallery, Florence). Courtesy of National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Event: Wednesday, February 16 from 5:30pm to 6:30pm

Virtual Happy Hour: Artemisia Gentileschi

Join the staff of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) and special guest Dr. Eve Straussman-Pflanzer for a virtual happy hour to celebrate the work and life of Artemisia Gentileschi. Make a specialty cocktail (or mocktail) in her honor with AJ Johnson, partner and bar director of Serenata, as we share her artworks and stories of her amazing life.

Dr. Eve Straussman-Pflanzer is curator and head of Italian and Spanish Paintings at the National Gallery of Art, previously serving as head of the European Art Department and the Elizabeth and Allan Shelden Curator of European Paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). Prior to the DIA, she served as assistant director of curatorial affairs/senior curator of collections at the Davis Museum, Wellesley College, where she oversaw the reinstallation of the permanent collection and curated the first monographic exhibition in the United States devoted to the 17th-century Florentine artist Carlo Dolci. She is co-curator of the exhibition By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Italian Women Artists, 1500–1800, which will open at the DIA on February 6.

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Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–ca. 1654 or later) is regarded as the best-known woman painter of the 17th century. Born in Rome, she was trained in drawing and painting by her father, Orazio Gentileschi, who was a follower of Caravaggio. Her talent was apparent early on, and her earliest surviving work, Susanna and the Elders (1610), was completed when she was just seventeen years old.

Gentileschi gained renown for her dramatic and naturalistic renderings of female figures. In addition to Susanna and the Elders, she painted heroines such as Cleopatra, Venus and Lucretia, as well as several versions of the Old Testament story of Judith, in Judith Slaying Holofernes (ca. 1620) and Judith and Her Maidservant (ca. 1615–17; also ca. 1625). Art historians have sometimes connected her powerful approach to these themes with her personal history of sexual violence: she was raped in 1611 by Agostino Tassi, another artist and acquaintance of her father’s. Her family brought charges, and Tassi was found guilty after a lengthy trial.

After the trial, Gentileschi married and moved to Florence, where her career flourished. She was a successful court painter and the first woman accepted into the prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno. She enjoyed the support of many wealthy and important patrons, including Cosimo II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and the Grand Duchess, Christina of Lorraine.

In 1620, Gentileschi moved back to Rome, where she expanded her network of patrons and completed many important works. After a decade, she moved to Naples, where she would spend much of the rest of her life. Her paintings are held in museum collections around the world, including those of the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery, London; and the Detroit Institute of Arts, which is hosting the exhibition By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800 through May 29, 2022.