It’s Women’s History Month, and I wanted to share some art created by a female artist of yesteryear: one that is especially meaningful when considered through the lens of current issues.
Artemisia Gentileschi is (I believe) the only female Renaissance artist with surviving pieces credited to her. She painted in a style similar to Caravaggio (my favorite Renaissance artist) and was brilliant and skilled in her own right: she was particularly gifted when it came to portraying the female body and in her use of light and colors. Unfortunately, most of what we were originally told about her was related to the fact that she was raped by fellow artist Agostino Tassi (who was convicted of rape after the case went to trial). It’s a shame that this gifted artist was, for many years, known as a victim that transferred her own trauma into art.
Gentileschi is so much more than what she experienced, and I’m glad that art historians are finally giving her story the balanced interpretation that it deserves. As someone that just learned about her in the past few years, I never thought I’d get to see her work in person (there really aren’t that many Renaissance art pieces by high profile artists outside of the major museums in large cities) without traveling outside of my city.
However, there was a surprise for me, waiting right at my local museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Art. As I browsed the Renaissance section, I stopped at a lovely painting that I hadn’t noticed before. I looked at the identification card and, lo and behold, there was a Gentileschi painting!
I’m so glad that I got to experience the creative genius of Gentileschi right in my own backyard. I really liked her use of light in the painting: it looks like someone had just opened a window and let it stream across Venus’s body. I also love that Cupid remains only partially in the light, emphasizing him as minor (secondary) to his mother Venus, the goddess of love. In this portrait, Venus (the embodiment of all sorts of love, prosperity and fertility) is the star, and Cupid (a symbol of erotic and passionate love/lust) is in a supporting role. I interpret this as the passion of lust is unable to outshine the vastness of real love, and I suspect that even the source of light depicted wouldn’t shine quite so brightly if Cupid was the only subject of this painting.
Another thing: I really enjoyed the depiction of Cupid fanning his mother, showing him in service to her. It makes me think of how lust and passion are at their best when they are in service to higher forms of love. (Just a personal takeaway).
I just wanted to share that moment with you, because I still love art and find inspiration in it. I hope this post inspires you, too! Have a great day, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!