Artemisia Gentileschi, (1593–1653)
Santa Caterina di Alessandria, c. 1615 or 1618-1619
Oil on canvas
Height: 77 cm (30.3 in); Width: 62 cm (24.4 in)
Was at Uffizi Gallery
They tried to break Saint Catherine of Alexandria on a wheel, but she survived. This is how the great female 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi portrays herself in a sensational, newly uncovered masterpiece that has just been bought by the National Gallery for £3.6m – a record for her work. More on this paining
Saint Catherine of Alexandria is, according to tradition, a Christian saint and virgin, who was martyred in the early 4th century at the hands of the pagan emperor Maxentius. According to her hagiography, she was both a princess and a noted scholar, who became a Christian around the age of fourteen, and converted hundreds of people to Christianity. She was martyred around the age of 18. Over 1,100 years following her martyrdom, St. Joan of Arc identified Catherine as one of the Saints who appeared to her and counselled
The femperor condemned Catherine to death on a spiked breaking wheel, but, at her
touch, it shattered. Maxentius ordered her to be beheaded. Catherine herself
ordered the execution to commence. A milk-like substance rather than blood
flowed from her neck.
The Eastern Orthodox Church venerates her as a Great Martyr, and celebrates her feast day on 24 or 25 November (depending on the local tradition). In the Catholic Church she is traditionally revered as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. In 1969 the Catholic Church removed her feast day from the General Roman Calendar; however, she continued to be commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on 25 November. More on Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Artemisia Gentileschi; (July 8, 1593 – c. 1656) was an Italian Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio. In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.
She painted many pictures of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible –
victims, suicides, warriors.
Her best-known work is Judith Slaying Holofernes (a well-known medieval and baroque subject in art), which “shows the decapitation of Holofernes, a scene of horrific struggle and
blood-letting”. That she was a woman painting in the seventeenth century and that she was raped and participated in prosecuting the rapist, long overshadowed her achievements as an artist. For many years she was regarded as a curiosity. Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and expressionist painters of her generation. More on Artemisia Gentileschi
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