The newly restored self portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi leaves the National Gallery of London to visit unusual and unexpected venues, starting with Glasgow Women's Library this week. Artemisia's self portrait will continue to travel around the UK throughout spring and early summer visiting a range of locations, including a girls' school and a health centre.
Image: Artemisia Gentileschi, 'Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria', about 1615–17
In 2017 the National Gallery of London acquired the first painting in their collection by Artemisia Gentileschi, the most famous female painter of the 17th century. The painting, a self portrait in the guise of the 4th-century Christian martyr, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, was restored, reframed and put on display in the Gallery in 2018.
In 2019 the painting will leave the Gallery to visit a series of unusual and unexpected venues across the UK and be introduced to some of the people who collectively own this new national treasure.
The first stop in this series of visits is Scotland where the painting will go on public display at Glasgow Women's Library until 19 March 2019.
Artemisia's self portrait will continue to travel around the UK throughout spring and early summer visiting a range of locations, including a girls' school and a health centre.
Artemisia Gentileschi, 'Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria', about 1615–17
Artemisia shows herself in the guise of the 4th-century martyr Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Sentenced to death by the emperor Maxentius, Catherine was bound to revolving wheels studded with iron spikes. Saved through heavenly intervention, she was later beheaded, but the instrument of her torture – a broken wheel – became her common attribute in art. Artemisia has deliberately chosen to use her own image for the martyr and depicts Saint Catherine as determined and empowered after her divine rescue.
Artemisia’s paintings are often read in biographical terms, especially the explicitly violent scenes in which a strong female hero is the main protagonist. Though it is debatable whether these works were specifically produced as creative responses to her rape, there is no question that Artemisia’s personal identity is closely intertwined with her artistic production. Here, as in a number of paintings dating from her Florentine years, Artemisia introduces her own face and features. In an act of self-identification and self-promotion, she would have been instantly recognisable to contemporaries in Florence.
It is with paintings such as ‘Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria’ that Artemisia established her reputation in both cultured and literary circles, transforming herself into one of the most sought-after artists of her generation.
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