Exceptional woman breaks through the glass ceiling

"Self-Portrait as a Lute Player" lent by Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford CT.

“Self-Portrait as a Lute Player” lent by Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford CT.

Last November 10th, I posted “No Country for Exceptional Women”. In the aftermath of recent events, I read many essays and articles claiming that the USA Presidential glass ceiling had at least been seriously “cracked”. I see no sign of it, but did get a pleasant surprise since posting: Artemisia, one of my two “exceptional women”, has arrived on the art scene in Rome to break through her personal glass ceiling with a vengeance.

She did it. 363 years after her death.

I was sitting in my car in the eye of one of our notorious daily traffic jams when a poster on a sidewalk billboard caught my eye. I recognised the full colour and strong lines of one of Artemisia’s famous paintings. Thanks to the gridlock, I read on undisturbed and found out she’s finally getting full-fledged recognition here in Rome, with an exhibit in one of the center’s main Municipal museums, the “Museo di Roma” just off Piazza Navona. The exhibit opened over a week ago, and will run till May 7th 2017.

Unrelated - caught the Changing of the Guard on the way to the exhibit...

Unrelated – caught the Changing of the Guard on the way to the exhibit…

If you visit Rome, and are interested in late Renaissance-Early Baroque Italian 17th century art, don’t miss it. Titled “Artemisia Gentileschi e il suo tempo” – “Artemisia Gentileschi and her times” – it has gathered almost a hundred paintings that comprise both hers and those of many painters who were her contemporaries. It does an excellent job of showing and explaining their exchange of ideas and subjects, the overlap of their styles. The cultural similarities and tastes in fashion are all obvious, and the show places her squarely among the successful artists of her time who commanded high level patronage and commissions. She was the only woman in a totally male-dominated artistic environment, and seems to have held her ground among the best of them.

The exhibit shows a skilled painter whose subjects are often brutal, an … exceptional woman, multi-faceted in both her relationships and interests.

She started her career in Rome, continued it in Florence, moved back to Rome. She lived and worked in Venice too, and Naples – where she eventually died – was one of her favourite cities. She was called to the court of King James 1st in 1638 and worked in London for over a year.

Artemisia Gentileschi quote (you can figure it out)

Artemisia Gentileschi quote (you can figure it out)

Most of the paintings in the exhibit are on loan from museums and collections around the world. So though mainstream History of Art books have often overlooked her role and invariably highlight the works of her lesser male contemporaries, she is appreciated by collectors in many countries, including the USA: I saw that one of her works belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of New York, another to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.

Glass ceilings may just become something of the past. Maybe in another 363 years.

Photos: 14thcountry.com

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This entry was posted in Blogging, Creativity, Cultural, Italy, Opinion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Exceptional woman breaks through the glass ceiling

  1. Great essay. I heard this story on NPR. Beautiful job on your part. Best wishes now and throughout 2017! Kind regards, ch

  2. Congratulations, fellow blogger! The gringa has nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Enjoy a moment to shine then spread & share the love! Thanks for being a part of my little blogger-sphere. You truly inspire me, dear Bea! Here’s the link..
    https://gringaofthebarrio.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/thanks-shares/

  3. I love the article, so good to know more about an exceptional artist like her

    • Bea dM says:

      Glad you liked it, and honoured by your follow! I made a few quick clicks on your blog, and it looks like there’s lots there that I’ll love too: I’ll be trawling through as soon as I get a holiday breather 🙂

  4. dunelight says:

    Thank you for bringing this artist to my attention.
    I love your positive spin on the traffic jam.

    • Bea dM says:

      Glad you found her interesting. And you noticed my zen take on traffic too: it’s a recent effort, as I realized continuing to rage against it was driving me crazy 🙂

      • dunelight says:

        I think I understand. I do not like the human being that starts driving when I am faced with rush hour traffic full of bad drivers making casual decisions about the sanctity of my life.

  5. It took a lot of will and drive to be one of the few women. It can’t have been easy for her.

  6. Barb Knowles says:

    Great article. I go to the Metropolitan Museum of New York and will keep an eye out. Thank you for bringing artists I’ve never heard of to my attention. And I missed your posts!

    • Bea dM says:

      Thank you, that’s so nice of you! I’ve been struggling with the zeitgeist – we also had baffling (?) voter choices a week ago here in Italy. As in “hey, let’s bring on chaos!”…

  7. Yvonne says:

    I’m surely going to see this exhibition in May, what a lucky time to be in Rome!

  8. herschelian says:

    I think there were more female artists working than have been recorded in art histories. As well as Artemesia, another favourite of mine is Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun – google her and you’ll see why.

    • Bea dM says:

      I just did and it brought back memories of a portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette in my French school history books. Though being a woman made things difficult for her too, she had the advantage of being very well-connected … through her husband 🙂

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