In Pisa, Palazzo Blu has just reopened, offering free admission through June 30, that comprises entrance to the small Artemisia Gentileschi one-woman show and the “Pisa in the ‘60s” exhibition. Hours are 10 am – 7 pm weekdays, 10 am – 8 pm on weekends and holidays such as San Ranieri (June 17).
The only known portrait of famous feminist painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1653), a survivor of sexual violence, displayed at Palazzo Blu, was purchased by the Pisa Foundation for Palazzo Blu at a cost of €500,000. Gentileschi’s portrait is being exhibited to the public together with “Clio,” the Greek muse of history created by the same artist during her Neapolitan period, which was already part of the museum’s collection.
Artemisia Gentileschi was a Baroque-period artist known for such works as “Madonna and Child” and “Judith Slaying Holofernes.” She was the daughter of the esteemed painter Orazio Gentileschi (1553-1639), one of the original followers of Caravaggio in Italy. Artemisia showed aptitude for figurative art at a very early age and created her first professional work “Susanna and the Elders” around 1610, when she was 17. In the same year, she was raped by one of her father’s colleagues, Agostino Tassi. Orazio Gentileschi pursued legal action against him and the court case took several excruciating months. The court exiled Tassi from Rome, but the order was never enforced.
The heartbreaking story did not end with the trial: Artemisia brought it into her art. Throughout her life, Artemisia had a particular interest in portraying either women, who suffered from male violence (“Susanna,” “Bathsheba”), or heroic women, who managed to prevail over men (“Judith,” “Esther”).
Artemisia also painted a self portrait of herself hidden under the surface of her St. Catherine of Alexandria painting in the Uffizi collection, which has also recently been uncovered; read story and see photo here.