Thursday, November 4, 2021

Notes on Three Paintings by Artemesia Gentileschi



 In the Wadsworth Atheneum, there is a show of the art of Italian Renaissance women artists, most notably Artemesia Gentileschi. Here are the notes I made on three of her paintings:


1. Her women are no more beautiful than they have to be.

2. Their bodies have heft.

3. In Judith and Her Maidservant, the two are caught in the instant when, their deed done, they hear a sound that might imperil their escape. 

4. The maidservant looks as determined as Judith. But for an accident of birth, they could have traded places.

5. The hand that Judith raises to shade the candle casts a dark shadow over her eye. There are shadows on the backs of her arms as well.

6. The candle flame bends away from the imperious onrush of her hand.

7. A scabbard lies on the table by the candle.

8. Blood drips from the sword that Judith holds.

9. Blood stains her maidservant's hand, paused in the act of bundling up Holofernes' head.

10. The head, almost invisible in the darkness, is ignored by both; it belongs to the past.

11. In her painting of Bathsheba, David is almost invisible in the darkness of his balcony, unnoticed by the women on the rooftop.

12. In Lot and His Daughters, the old patriarch has a malformed big toe.



Michael Swanwick said...

I forget who it was who said that few people can look at a painting for as long as it takes to eat an apple. Marianne and I looked at this painting for several apples,discussing it. There was so much to see! A docent came by with his tour, talked, and left. We kept looking.

I do not claim we saw anything more than anybody else would have seen. But it was a painting that rewarded looking.

The curator's remarks printed on the walls told us much we did not know as well.

Stephen said...

Thank you. Great reading of the painting.