A Statement of Self As Court Artist, Artemisia Gentileschi's La Pittura

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Of the many narratives surrounding the seventeenth-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi, her role as a court artist is seldom the topic of discussion, and the artist's London period (1638-1640) is perhaps the least studied stage in her career. This thesis examines this gap, considering Artemisia as a professional artist working at court. Central to this analysis is Artemisia's sole extant painting from her time at the Stuart court, La Pittura. It is argued here that the painting, first documented in a 1649/1651 Inventory of the Stuart collection, was likely sent by the artist in advance of her arrival in London as a gift to Queen Henrietta Maria in anticipation of a court appointment. To support this argument, I consider Artemisia's long history of seeking court patronage, participation in the gift economy, and the network of Medici patronage that she operated within throughout her career. As a deliberate construction of the artist's self-image, I identify the presentation of self in La Pittura as a statement of divinely inspired artistic "genius," which aligns with the period discourse of the elevation of painting to a Liberal Art and, by extension, the artist at court. I examine the ways in which Artemisia manipulated the conventions of both the Allegory of Painting and self-portraiture in La Pittura to position herself as an artist vying for a court appointment. As a result, a new dating of the painting prior to her arrival in London is necessary. The revised dates suggested here, c. 1635-1638 – and viewing the work as a gift – offer new avenues for exploring the iconographic originality of the work as well as the female patronage networks in which the artist operated.

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