Alright guys time for a feminist art history lesson
Ima tell you all about Artemisia Gentileschi, a freakin rad Italian painter born at the end of the 16th century. She was the first woman to ever be accepted into Florence’s Academy of Art and Design. I mean we’re talking 1600’s man, that is not something that happened back then.
Even better, her paintings were very good and very empowering. I will now call your attention back to the four pictures. Only the two on the right side are by Gentileschi. Back during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, people painted lots of similar events (usually Bible stories bc that’s all anyone cared about then) so it’s easy to compare and contrast the interests of different artists because of their different interpretations of the same stories.
The top two both depict a story called Susanna and the Elders in which a nice girl named Susanna is bathing and chilling by herself and two creepy old guys come and blackmail her and tell her to have sex with them and that if she doesn’t they’ll tell everyone she did.
Now on the left, you have Tintoretto’s representation. It has a nice pretty background and the old men are depicted as horny little mischief makers, and that makes the event seem light-hearted despite what was happening. And then you have Gentileschi on the right telling it like it is. The old men are threatening and menacing and Susanna as disgusted and traumatized and not having any of that shit.
The next story is the story of Judith slaying Holofernes. Holofernes was a general and a douche who invaded Judith’s town of Bethulia and cut off their water supply. In order to prevent the full takeover, Judith and her assistant went into his tent when he was drunk and asleep and cut off his head.
The painting on the left is by Caravaggio. In his depiction you can see that Judith is uncomfortable and just grossed the fuck out because seriously she’s a woman and women don’t fight or do violent stuff. And then on the left Gentileschi has her just getting in there and just slicing away and her friend is even helping her by holding Holofernes down. Badass.
Some people kind of belittle her accomplishments and say she only painted like this because she was a woman or because she was raped as a young adult, but here’s the thing. Women tend to be better feminists because they have a more direct, experience-given knowledge of misogyny.
she was raped in 1611 at the age of eighteen. The Susanna and the Elders painting was done in 1610 which shows that A) she was making revolutionary feminist statements before she had the experience that many people diminish her life’s work down to, and B) that she painted that top right painting when she was seventeen which is pretty dang awesome and that is why everyone should love Artemisia Gentileschi.
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