Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura)
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Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura)Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura)
Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting is an incredibly bold work for it's time. Painted during the Italian Baroque period in approximately 1630, and using elements of the "Allegory of Painting" from author Cesare Ripa's 1611 Iconologia, Gentileschi took an incredibly egotistical stand- to say that she was not only a female painter at a time when women were not even admitted into the artistic academies- but that as a female painter, she is the very embodiment of painting itself. Her posturing in the piece, with her raised chin, and the dynamics of showing herself deeply focused on the act of painting, also convey a sense of pride- and in addition to that, underscore the idea that she is an artist at work, showing herself in the pursuit of the noble goal of fulfillment, of personal acheivement and happiness through her own means.

An interesting note is that Gentileschi followed the allegorical references for the "Allegory of Painting", according to Ripa, except for one. The symbols of the allegory are:
- A pendant mask on a gold chain, showing the artist's capability for imitation of what they see in life.
- A color changing dress (difficult to see in digital representations of this work, but the green dress she has depicted herself in shifts colors in it's folds and highlights very subtly)- another interesting side note here would be that the "Allegory of Art", according to Ripa, is to be depicted in green, thus tying together painting as part of art as a whole.
- Unruly hair, depicting "the divine frenzy of the artistic temprement", or showing the artistic conveyance of depicting work with emotion and inspiration.
- The tools of a painter (palatte and brush), shown in this piece being used and handled directly by the artist, while in many typical allegorical pictures from the time, they were placed nearby the figure, but not in use.
- A piece of cloth binding the mouth of the allegory, meant to symbolize the non-verbal means of expression that the painter is limited to.
This is the part that Gentileschi left out, which leads me to think that this could have been a mark of refusing to be "kept quiet" or "stay in her place" as a woman at the time, but instead to be bold and proud- neither qualities which were particularly promoted in women at the time.

This work is one that I have spent much time with (both academically and in-person at exhibitions), and am currently writing a large paper on, so I thought I would share, and would very much enjoy some discussion on if there are any takers.

(Added by Sarah France on 3/19, 11:21pm)

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