Friday 14 April 2017

Artemisia Gentileschi - Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting

Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura), by Artemisia Gentileshi,

at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

I have loved this exquisite painting for as long as I can remember so when I found out that it was exhibited as part of the Portrait of the Artist exhibition at the Queen's Gallery, I just had to go and see it.

Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura), 1638-39, (oil on canvas)

Artemisia Gentileschi is shown conceiving the idea for a painting, her brush poised ready to realise her vision on the empty canvas. Dressed in a dirtied apron and leaning on a grinding stone, she strains to observe her subject, sleeves pushed up to reveal muscular forearms. The gold chain around her neck - on which hangs a mask symbolising imitation - as well as her wild hair and iridescent dress, all correspond with the description of Pittura, the female personification of Painting. In conflating her own likeness with Pittura, Gentileschi creates a truly original image - and one unavailable to her male contemporaries. The painting is also about Gentileschi herself: strong, confident, skilled. Gentileschi's portrayal of herself as the epitome of the arts was a bold statement to make for the period and was very controversial in its time.

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