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  • A woman enters an enemy army camp.

  • When the watchmen stop her,

  • she says she's willing to tell her people's secrets to the ranking general.

  • But she isn't actually a traitor.

  • On her fourth day under the general's protection,

  • she waits for him to get drunk and beheads him,

  • saving her people from his tyranny.

  • This is the biblical story of how the heroine Judith

  • slays the brutal Holofernes.

  • It features in countless works of art, including the Sistine Chapel.

  • But the most iconic depiction of all was painted by an artist

  • who tackled this ambitious scene when she was just 19 years old.

  • Her name was Artemisia Gentileschi,

  • though many scholars refer to her simply as Artemisia, like other Italian masters.

  • So who was Artemisia, and what sets her depiction apart from the rest?

  • Artemisia received her artistic training from her father Orazio Gentileschi.

  • He tutored her in the dramatic new style of painting pioneered

  • by the artist Caravaggio.

  • This style, called the Baroque, built upon earlier Renaissance traditions.

  • While Renaissance artists had focused on imitating the classical Greeks,

  • depicting moments of calmness or poise amidst intensity,

  • Baroque artists emphasized the climactic moment of a story with dynamic action.

  • Baroque works also dial up the drama through composition

  • and extreme contrasts of light and dark, called chiaroscuro or tenebrism.

  • Taken together, the effect is a more direct emotional appeal to viewers.

  • Though Artemisia drew from Caravaggio's style,

  • by many accounts,

  • her rendering outmatched the older master's depiction of the same story.

  • Like Artemisia, Caravaggio focused on the moment of the beheading,

  • dramatically contrasting light and dark and emphasizing the gore.

  • But his painting lacks the visceral impact of Artemisia's.

  • Where Caravaggio's heroine keeps her distance from the bloody act,

  • Artemisia's Judith pushed up her sleeves and wedged her knee on the bed

  • to counter Holofernes' resistance.

  • Her body has a heft that makes the action believable,

  • and the viscous streams of blood soaking the sheets are highly naturalistic.

  • The blood spraying from the severed artery in Caravaggio's

  • looks stilted and artificial by comparison.

  • And yet this isn't even her most celebrated painting of the scene.

  • She finished this painting in 1613,

  • shortly after marrying and moving to Florence,

  • where she found professional success

  • following a very difficult period in her life.

  • In 1611, a colleague of her father's, Agostino Tassi,

  • nicknamedlo Smargiasso,” orthe bully,” raped her.

  • When Artemisia told her father,

  • he filed charges for the crime offorcible violation of a virgin”—

  • a designation that meant Tassi had damaged Orazio's property.

  • Rape laws centered almost entirely on young women's bodies

  • as commodities owned by their fathers.

  • Tassi's trial lasted for seven months,

  • during which Artemisia was subjected to interrogation

  • and torture with thumbscrews as she testified against him.

  • Tassi was ultimately found guilty,

  • but his powerful patrons managed to have his sentence revoked.

  • Some scholars have suggested that Artemisia started the painting

  • while the trial was still underway.

  • Many have debated whether the rape influenced her work.

  • Artemisia revisited the subject of Judith repeatedly.

  • One painting shows Judith and her maidservant

  • trying to leave the enemy encampment.

  • Here, Artemisia added a tiny ornament in Judith's hair,

  • possibly referencing David, the protector of Florence,

  • with a nod to Michelangelo.

  • On the sword's hilt there's a screaming Gorgon or Medusa

  • both female archetypes evoking rage and power

  • which link the work to Caravaggio.

  • Artemisia painted her most famous portrayal of Judith between 1618 and 1620.

  • The composition is similar to that of her first painting from 1613,

  • but has meaningful details for those who look closely.

  • The sword more directly resembles a crucifix,

  • heightening the sense that Judith's vengeance was a holy act ordained by God.

  • Artemisia also added a bracelet featuring the goddess of the hunt

  • her namesake, Artemis.

  • This signature is one of the many ways her art holds true to a sentiment

  • that she expressed near the end of her life:

  • The works will speak for themselves.”

A woman enters an enemy army camp.

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B2 TED-Ed judith painting baroque depiction florence

Artemisia Gentileschi: The woman behind the paintings - Allison Leigh

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    林宜悉 posted on 2022/03/12
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