Rare Artemisia Gentileschi painting acquired for Norway's National Museum
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Rare Artemisia Gentileschi painting acquired for Norway's National Museum
"Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes" (1639 or 1640). Photo: The National Museum / Børre Høstland.

OSLO.- A rare painting by Artemisia Gentileschi is now on display at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo. The work Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes (1639 or 1640) was recently acquired by the Norwegian DNB Savings Bank Foundation for the National Museum.

It is unusual for a work by Artemisia Gentileschi to have no uncertainties concerning dating and attribution. In this painting, Artemisia Gentileschi name is visible in the sword held by the Judith figure on the left side. The painting was previously only known through a black and white photograph, so experts could not conclude that it was a work by Gentileschi until the original revealed the signature.

As the canvas is too fine to have been weaved in Italy, it is possible to conclude that the painting must have been painted during the period Artemisia Gentileschi spent at the court in London from the end of 1638 until she returned to Naples in 1640. She came to London to assist her ill father, the painter Orazio Gentileschi, who was working with her brothers on court commissions for King Charles I.

–We are proud to have another painting by Artemisia Gentileschi at the National Museum. She was a monumental figure in her time and is an example that female artists have not always been overlooked. Her dramatic life story and paintings of powerful women has proven their relevance by becoming symbols for the recent #metoo movement, says Director of the National Museum Karin Hindsbo.

The painting will join other works by Artemisia Gentileschi at the National Museum. These include the early work Saint Catharine of Alexandria (1614–15), on loan from a private collection, and The Penitent Mary Magdalene (1640). The National Museum also holds an earlier Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, painted by Artemisia’s father Orazio Gentileschi (between 1608 and 1612), on which she must have worked while she was in training at her father’s studio. The new acquisition means that the National Museum is the museum with the most works by Artemisia Gentileschi outside of Italy.

– We are happy that this masterpiece now will be on display at the National Museum in Oslo. Now, the museum can show four paintings by Artemisia Gentileschi, and this is rare for any museum, says Manager for Art and culture in the DNB Savings Bank Foundation, Anders Bjørnsen.

The painting will be on view in the National Museum before travelling to the upcoming exhibition Artemisia Gentileschi in Naples at the Gallerie d’Italia in Naples from 1st December 2022 to the 20th March 2023. Afterwards the work will return to Oslo.

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