One of the first female artists to achieve recognition in her own time, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) became instantly popular in the 1970s when feminist art historians "discovered" her and argued vehemently for a place for her in the canon of Italian baroque painters. Featured alongside her father, Orazio Gentileschi, in a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Artemisia has continued to stir interest though her position in the canon remains precarious, in part because her sensationalized life history has overshadowed her art.
In The Artemisia Files
, Mieke Bal and her coauthors look squarely at this early icon of feminist art history and the question of her status as an artist. Considering the events that shaped her life and reputation—her relationship to her father and her role as the victim in a highly publicized rape case during which she was tortured into giving evidence—the authors make the case that Artemisia's importance is due to more than her role as a poster child in the feminist attack on traditional art history; here, Artemisia emerges more fully as a highly original artist whose work is greater than the sum of the events that have traditionally defined her.
The fresh, engaging discourse in The Artemisia Files
will help to both renew the reputation of this artist on the merit of her work and establish her rightful place in the history of art.
“Over the last generation Artemisia has been transformed from a talented curiosity . . . into a standard bearer of early feminist consciousness. This book offers a fascinating glimpse into the critical frame of mind underlying this transformation.”—Keith Christiansen, Jayne Wrightsman Curator of Italian Painting, The MetropolitanMuseum of Art