Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi: Self Portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria

Artemisia Gentileschi, the most celebrated female painter of the 17th century, was born in Rome in 1593. Her date of death is unknown, but it must be after 1654 when she is recorded as living in Naples. Self Portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria (c 1615-17) has recently been acquired by the National Gallery in London, restored, and sent out on tour to unusual and unexpected destinations including a library, a school, and a health centre. The painting’s first stop is Glasgow Women’s Library where it is on display until 19th March, so hurry along if you are in the area.

Who was St Catherine of Alexandria? In the 4th century she was sentenced to death for her Christian beliefs and tied to a wheel studded with iron spikes. Although she was miraculously freed by angels, she could not escape a martyr’s death and was later beheaded. In Artemisia’s portrait she leans on the broken wheel with her left hand while her right hand holds a martyr’s palm. I spent an hour in the same room as Catherine / Artemisia and continually returned to that beautiful, clear gaze.

You can read more on the National Gallery’s site:

I wonder if Artemisia would approve of being added to a blogging challenge? If it gets more people looking at her wonderful painting, maybe she would. I’m linking to Becky’s Spiky Squares.

47 thoughts on “Artemisia Gentileschi

  1. maristravels March 14, 2019 / 14:08

    Now that really is a spiky story. Well done you to see the connection. Lovely portrait and lovely to have this female painter brought to people’s attention like this.


    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter March 14, 2019 / 15:53

      I meant to post about Artemisia – it wasn’t till I uploaded the picture I realised it was a perfect match. It was already in square format to match the frame so I didn’t even have to alter it!


  2. Liesbet @ Roaming About March 14, 2019 / 01:12

    Talk about a spiky square – what a fantastic contribution for this challenge, Anabel. I had never heard of Artemisia Gentileschi, and will have a hard time remembering her name.


  3. Eilene Lyon March 14, 2019 / 00:13

    That is a beautiful portrait. Now I know more about the origin of the term “Catherine Wheel.” How awful for the artist to be tortured after being raped!


    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter March 13, 2019 / 23:04

      I hope so! It just felt slightly odd when I made the link. But I’m sure she’d be quite go-ahead about promoting herself. After all, many of her paintings have her own image, not just this one!


  4. the eternal traveller March 13, 2019 / 20:36

    I love the idea of sharing this painting with as many people as possible by taking it on tour. Artemisia looks quite pensive and beautiful as St Catherine. I think she would approve of your way of showing us her work.


  5. Kev March 13, 2019 / 19:13

    I’m hoping to get to see it on Saturday. I’ve seen a lot of positive stuff about the painting being at GWL on social media and it’s a great thing for them and the city.


  6. BeckyB March 13, 2019 / 16:15

    oh this is fabulous . . she has as you say a beautiful gaze. I hope Artemisia didn’t suffer like Catherine?


    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter March 13, 2019 / 16:37

      Well – unfortunately she did, though she wasn’t killed. She was raped as a young woman and tortured with thumb screws to verify her evidence during the trial. Horrific!


  7. Pit March 13, 2019 / 14:49

    “I wonder if Artemisia would approve of being added to a blogging challenge?” – Now that’s really an intriguing question. 😉
    Thanks for the interesting post.


  8. Andrew Petcher March 13, 2019 / 11:26

    A good painting. Makes you wonder why something like Mona Lisa gets elevated to such adoration status and something like this doesn’t. I like the ‘Girl with a Pearl earring’ but then again I know nothing about art!


    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter March 13, 2019 / 12:46

      Also, you can’t really tell from my picture but St Catherine of Alexandria is much bigger than Mona Lisa. I know bigger isn’t always better, but I certainly find this painting more striking. Her face has the same luminosity as Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I also like.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. wanderessence1025 March 13, 2019 / 10:53

    How interesting to learn about this painter and about St. Catherine, neither of whom I’ve ever heard of. You’re right. It is a beautiful painting. Thanks for sharing. 🙂


    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter March 13, 2019 / 11:07

      I didn’t know much about her either until this happened. It was an emotional experience to get so close to such a magnificent work of art.


      • Su Leslie March 13, 2019 / 20:54

        I’m so glad that this beautiful painting is “on tour.” We’re so used to thinking of art from past centuries being a male preserve, and Artemesia’s work proves that women artists’ relative absence from the history of art is not about lack of talent. I’d read about the rape, but not the thumbscrews — what an especially horrific torture for a painter!!

        And would she approve of her role in a blogging challenge — absolutely. I’d like to think she would have totally owned social media.

        Thank you for sharing this Anabel. I can imagine how moving it must be to see the painting “in the flesh.”


      • wanderessence1025 March 15, 2019 / 13:18

        I’m sure it was. I know the feeling just from emotions I felt at places like the Mezquita in Cordoba and other places that inspired awe. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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