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Artemisia Gentileschi's Self Portrait goes on display for International Women's Day
Artemisia Gentileschi's self portrait on display at Glasgow Women’s Library © The National Gallery, London.


GLASGOW.- A recently discovered, rare self portrait by the most celebrated female artist of the Italian Baroque – Artemisia Gentileschi – has gone on display today (6 March 2019) in Glasgow Women’s Library, just in time for International Women’s Day (8 March 2019).

Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, an oil painting from about 1615–17, was acquired by the National Gallery, London in July 2018.

Through spring and summer 2019, the painting is undertaking a series of ‘visits’ to unusual and unexpected venues (not all of them galleries or museums) across the UK. In addition to Glasgow Women’s Library, these will include a girls’ school and a health centre.

Director of the National Gallery, Dr Gabriele Finaldi says, “The National Gallery acquired Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self Portrait last year and it now belongs to everyone. The tour ‘Artemisia Visits…’ takes this superb picture to a series of remarkable and unexpected venues across the country so that it can be enjoyed by people who may not be able to get to see it in Trafalgar Square.”

Artemisia Gentileschi’s self portrait will stay in Glasgow until 19 March.

Sue John, Glasgow Women’s Library’s Enterprise Development Manager said, “The importance of Artemisia Gentileschi is irrefutable and this addition to our national collection is incredibly exciting. We are thrilled that her ‘grand tour’ will start with Glasgow Women’s Library, the only accredited museum dedicated to women’s history in the UK. As well as being able to see this stunning work, we look forward to welcoming people to participate in our public events programmes during this period.”

Letizia Treves, the National Gallery James and Sarah Sassoon Curator of Later Italian, Spanish, and French 17th-century Paintings, says, “I’m thrilled to have played a part in the acquisition of Artemisia Gentileschi’s self portrait and now, following its transformation after conservation and a short display period in London, I am delighted that this remarkable painting will be seen by people who would not normally have the opportunity to visit the National Gallery.”

Artemisia Gentileschi is considered one of the most accomplished painters among the followers of Caravaggio, whom she must have known personally through her father, Orazio. In an era when female artists were not easily accepted, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence and had a truly international clientele, including royalty.

Artemisia faced challenges in both her professional and personal life: she was raped by a fellow painter and was subjected to gruelling questioning and physical torture during the trial that ensued. Her biography has long overshadowed her artistic achievements, but today she is recognised as one of the most talented painters of her generation.

Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria shows a female figure turning towards the viewer. A halo is visible just above her head, indicating that she is a saint. Her left hand rests on the top of a broken spiked wheel; a symbol associated with Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a Christian saint martyred in the early 4th century AD. Sentenced to death by the Emperor Maxentius, Catherine was bound to revolving wheels studded with iron spikes and nails. She escaped this instrument of torture through heavenly intervention, but was later beheaded. Of the sixty or so paintings attributed to Artemisia, many feature a strong female hero as their main protagonist. Artemisia’s paintings have often been read as autobiographical and there can be little doubt that her personal identity is closely intertwined with her artistic production.
The £3.6 million acquisition of Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria was made possible thanks to the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery, the National Gallery Trust, Art Fund (through the legacy of Sir Denis Mahon), Lord and Lady Sassoon, Lady Getty, and Hannah Rothschild CBE, and other donors including those who wish to remain anonymous. The conservation of the painting has been made possible with Art Fund support. It was unveiled at the National Gallery in December 2018.






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