Venetian Red Notebook: Artemisia’s Hand

righthandPierre Dumonstier, Right Hand of Artemisia Gentileschi Holding a Brush
Black and red chalk, 1625, British Museum
photo courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652), the first woman artist to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno, led a very tempestuous life. Leaving aside all the controversy and melodrama, however fascinating and instructive, I’d simply like to reflect briefly on this drawing of her right hand by her contemporary Pierre Dumonstier (1585-1656). It is a lovely, expressive drawing that suggests both skill and strength, which seems apt, because in Gentileschi’s historical, religious and allegorical paintings, the eye is often drawn to her depiction of women’s hands. Whether clutching a paintbrush, drapery or a sword, her female subjects have powerful, expressive, strong hands. No where more so than in her arresting self-portrait as the allegory of painting, La Pittura.

AGLaPitturaArtemisia Gentileschi, La Pittura, c1630
Royal Collection, Kensington Palace, London

5 Responses to “Venetian Red Notebook: Artemisia’s Hand”

  1. patricia Says:

    Artemisia Gentileschi is a favorite. Would her art be as arresting as it is if she were of this age? Or did the struggle fire her talent?

  2. Or, maybe, without the trial and struggle, she would have accomplished even more?

  3. And if she’d been a man, there would be no question of her talent. But because she was a woman and was raped by her father’s student, she was tortured, denigrated and despised. Put one of her paintings next to one of her father’s; the difference in dynamic energy is striking.

  4. Whilst I agree that the drawing is quite lovely, might I suggest reviewing Grantham Turner’s text Shooling Sex. In that book he links the drawing of Gentileschi’s hand to some pretty serious misogynist libertine porn. Aslo take a look at the Le Mans Allegory of Painting that has been wrongly attributed to Gentileschi as recently as 2001 but probably in fact “clearly fantasizes the repression of her artistic agency, through figurative disempowerment and sinister sexualizing” (Garrard, M. in Artemesia Gentileschi for Feminists and other thinking people).

  5. Hello,
    Just to let you know that the Self portrait by Gentileschi is not on show at Kensington Palace, and has not been for around 30 years, so maybe you could remove it from your listing.

    Many thanks

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