Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the most important woman painters of Early Modern Europe. Read on to know about her contributions to the artistic field and interesting tidbits about her life.

Artemisia Biography

Born On: 8th July, 1593
Born In: Rome
Died On: 1656
Career: Painter
Nationality: Italian
Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the most versatile woman painters of Early Modern Europe. Today she is considered one of the most accomplished painters influenced by Caravaggio. In an era where the artistic community did not accept women painters very easily, she was the first lady to become a member of the Accademia Di Arte del Disegno in Florence. In those times, painting heroic themes such as religious and historical was considered out of women’s reach. But Artemisia proved them wrong and became one of the first female artists to portray such bold views and ideas on the canvas. Although she possessed a great talent, she often was disdained by people because in those days people thought only men were worthy enough to have a creative talent. Read on to know about the profile, childhood, life and timeline of Artemisia Gentileschi.   


Artemisia was born on 8th July, 1593, in Rome. She was the eldest child of the Tuscan painter, Orazio Gentileschi. Artemisia’s mother, Prudentia Montone, passed away when she was twelve. She was the eldest of all her siblings. Her father introduced painting to her at an early age and he also introduced her to various artists of Rome, including Caravaggio whose dramatic use of light and shadow influenced her painting. In her father’s workshop, she learned how to draw, mix colors and to paint. Her style was completely different from her father’s. Her father’s paintings were more idealized while hers were highly naturalistic. Besides artistic training, she had little or no schooling; she did not know how to read or write until she was an adult.

Early life 

In 1612, regardless of her marvelous talent, Artemisia’s was denied access to the all-male professional academies of art. Her father at that time was working with another famous painter, Agostino Tassi in Rome. So Orazio asked the Tuscan painter to teach his daughter ways of mastering art. Sadly, Artemisia was raped during one of her lessons with Tassi. Another man named Cosimo Quorlis had helped Tassi with the rape. Later on, Tassi promised to marry her and continued to demand sexual favors from her. Tassi broke his promise and never got married to Artemisia. When her father found out about his dreadful actions, he immediately got him arrested for rape and mental torture. Artemisia’s reputation was ruined because she was involved in a celebrated rape case which got a lot of unnecessary publicity. Tassi accused Artemisia of having a lot of lovers and not being a virgin. 

In the course of a 7-month trial, it was revealed that Tassi had planned to kill his wife and was engaged in adultery with his sister-in-law and had also planned to steal some of Orazio’s paintings. The judge ordered Artemisia to go through a gynecological examination and get tortured using thumbscrews: both procedures used to confirm the truth in those times. They considered the story to be true if the person stuck to the same story with or without torture. The judge convicted Tassi for a year.  

In order to save Artemisia from further humiliation, Orazio got his daughter married to Pierantonio Stiattesi, an artist from Europe. The couple moved to Florence. Shortly after they moved there, Artemisia painted at Casa Buonarroti and immediately became a successful court painter. It is believed that during this period, Artemisia painted the Madonna col Bambino (The Virgin and Child) which is currently displayed in Spada Gallery in Rome.  

Artemisia received huge success in Florence. She was the first woman who got accepted into the Accademia di Arte del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing). She maintained good relationships with famous and talented people such as Galileo Galilei, Cristofano Allori, Granduke Cosimo II de' Medici and especially the Granduchess Cristina. She admired Buonarroti the younger (nephew of the great Michelangelo). It is believed that several of her paintings have a self portrait of her displayed in the form of energetic heroines. In spite of her tremendous success, her stay in Florence was dotted with major financial issues because of uncontrollable expenses by her and her husband. Due to these problems, she had to return to Rome in 1621. Orazio had left for Genoa the same year that Artemisia arrived in Rome.  

It is believed that Artemisia was associated with the Academy of the Desiosi. She was honoured with a portrait carrying the inscription "Pincturare miraculum invidendum facilius quam imitandum". She became good friends with Cassiano dal Pozzo, an art lover, collector and a humanist. She had hoped Rome to be more beneficial because of her artistic reputation, her numerous good contacts and her strong personality, but it was not.      

In 1630 Artemisia moved to Naples in search of new and more profitable job opportunities since it is a city rich with workshops and art lovers. She lived in Naples till her career lasted, with a few trips to London and some other places. For the first time Artemisia started working on paintings in a cathedral in Naples. In those paintings Artemisia proved her ability to handle different subjects instead of the standard Judith, Susanna, Bathsheba, and Penitent Magdalenes, for which she was already famous.  

Artemisia joined her father in London at the court of Charles I of England in 1638. Orazio was a court painter there and had an important job of decorating a ceiling. In 1639, Orazio suddenly died. Later by 1642, when the civil war was just starting, it is known that Artemisia left England. According to historians, she was in Naples again in 1649.

Personal Life: 

Artemisia got married to Pierantonio in November 1612. They moved to Florence and had four sons and one daughter there. But only the daughter, Prudenzia, survived to adulthood. Her daughter Prudenzia got married in Naples. After her mother's death, Prudenzia kept a very low profile and little is known of her later life.  


Artemisia died in 1656 in Naples. The exact reason of her death is unknown but according to the Art historian Charles Moffat, Artemisia may have committed suicide, which would explain why the cause of her death was not recorded. The other theory being floated is that she died in the plague that devastatingly swept Naples in 1656, and which is supposed to have wiped out a whole generation of Neapolitan painters and artists.    

1593: Artemisia was born on July 8, in Rome, to Orazio Gentileschi, a noted painter.
1605: Her mother dies.
1612: She accuses artist Agostino Tassi of rape.
1612: She got married to Pietro Antonio di Vincenzo Stiattesi, and moved to Florence.
1616: Artemisia becomes an official member of the Academy of Design.
1621: Returns to Rome.
1630: She moves back to Naples.
1638: She works in residence at the English court under the patronage of King Charles I
1639: Her father dies.
1641: Artemisia returns to Naples because of the civil war in England.
1656: Artemisia dies.

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