The Artemisia Files: Artemisia Gentileschi for Feminists and Other Thinking People

This collection of six essays came out in 2005, a few years after the combined exhibition in Rome and NYC showing Artemisia Gentileschi’s works alongside her father Orazio’s. My favorite essay of the bunch was the first, where Mary Garrard makes a strong case for identifying Artemisia’s work through her use of hands – strong, capable, full of agency and action. In Artemisia’s world, “female figures hammer and paint, grab and hold, push and shove, with extraordinary ease.” Compare this to the delicate and limp hands on her father’s female figures, showing both their Lute Player paintings side by side exemplifies this vividly. Garrard asserts that it’s unlikely an Artemisia painting if the woman doesn’t display both hands (otherwise she’d be handicapped), as well as any sort of overt eroticism. The other essays include detailed analyses of the Susana and Judith paintings, including a shout out to the work of Kathleen Gilje, who in 1998 created a faux “x-ray” picture of what she thought would be underneath Artemisia’s Susana painting should it be subjected to X-ray analysis.