The Slaying of Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi (1612-13)

This painting by Italian artist Gentileschi is the signature image for the exhibition in Paris of her works that I’ll see this week.

Gentileschi was a fierce painter working between about 1610 and 1647. She started training with her father, then with his friend Agostino Tassi. When she was about 19 Tassi raped her, and Artemisia and her father brought him to trial. The 1998 film Artemisia focuses on this event and its toll on her.

Despite the attack, she continued to paint, including this picture, in which she paints herself as the Biblical Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes, a portrait of Tassi. Notice the sawing violence of the beheading, as well as the way Judith and her maid hold the Assyrian general down.

You go, girl.


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