Artemisia Gentileschi’s 1616 nude to be digitally unveiled

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Art restorers in the Italian city of Florence have launched a six-month project to virtually clean up and “unveil” a long-censored nude painting of Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the most important in the history of Italian art.

Swirling veils and draperies were added to the “Allegory of the Inclination” some 70 years after Gentileschi painted the life-size female nude, believed to be a self-portrait, in 1616.

The work to reveal the image as it was originally painted comes as Gentileschi’s contribution to Italian Baroque art is garnering renewed attention in the #MeToo era, both for his achievements but also for entering the male-dominated art world after being raped by one. art teachers.

His work was featured in an exhibition in 2020 at the National Gallery in London.

“Through her, we can talk about the importance of restoring works of art, of bringing women’s stories back to the fore,” said Linda Falcone, coordinator of the Artemisia Up Close project.

“Allegory of the Inclination” was originally commissioned for the family home of Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, the famous artist’s great-nephew. The building later became the Casa Buonarotti Museum, and the painting was until recently displayed on the ceiling in a gilded frame. When chief curator Elizabeth Wick removed the painting in late September, a rain of 400-year-old dust was released.

Wick’s team of restorers uses ultraviolet light, diagnostic imaging and X-rays to differentiate Gentileschi’s brushstrokes from those of the artist who covered the nudity. The public can watch the ongoing project at the museum until April 23.

Restorers will not be able to remove the veils because the covering was done too soon after the original, increasing the risk of Gentileschi’s painting being damaged in the process.

Instead, the restoration team plans to create a digital image of the original version to be featured in an exhibit when the project opens in September 2023.

Gentileschi arrived in Florence shortly after her rapist’s Rome trial, in which the 17-year-old was forced to testify with ropes tied around her fingers that gradually tightened in a test of honesty .

She also had to undergo a physical examination in the courtroom behind a curtain to confirm that she was no longer a virgin. Eventually, her rapist was found guilty and sentenced to eight months in prison.

“Anyone else would have been crushed by this experience,” Wick said. “But Artemisia bounces back. She approaches Florence. She obtains this marvelous order to paint a nude figure in full length for the ceiling of the Casa Buonarroti. So I think she’s showing people, ‘This is what I can do.’

While in Florence, Gentileschi also won commissions from the Medici family. His distinctive, dramatic and energetic style emerged, drawing inspiration from the most renowned Baroque painter of the time, Caravaggio. Many of his paintings featured female heroines, often in violent and often nude scenes.

She was 22 when she painted “Allegory of the Inclination”, which was commissioned by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger. Another family member, Leonardo Buonarroti, decided to have it embellished to protect the sensitivity of his wife and children.

“This is one of her first canvases. In the Florentine context, it was her first painting, the same year she was then accepted into the Academy of Drawing, which was the first drawing academy in Europe in the time,” Falcone said.

With the young Michelangelo as patron, Gentileschi entered the cultural milieu of the time.

“She got to rub shoulders with Galileo and other great thinkers. So this almost illiterate woman was suddenly at university level, producing works of art that were then, you know, appreciated by the Grand Duke,” Falcone said. “And she became a court painter from then on.”

Trisha Thomas, The Associated Press


Back to top button