Among the approximately 30 selected works is the Portrait of Gonfaloniere, one of the few dated paintings of the artist and one of the best examples of Italian portraiture in the seventeenth century.
The exceptional exhibition that the National Gallery in London dedicates to the genius of Artemisia Gentileschi , originally scheduled from April 4 to July 26, 2020, will open on October 3 to remain visible until January 24, 2021.
The prestigious British museum institution defines as “one of the biggest disappointments” resulting from the interruption of activities for 111 days due to Coronavirus the postponement of the largest monographic exhibition , the first and long-awaited in Britain, which explores the production of the famous Italian painter (Rome, 1593 – Naples, 1654), whose work in recent decades has been at the center of a critical reassessment that places her at the top of European art in the Baroque period.
Among the lenders involved in the project that, thanks to their availability, have made it possible to reschedule the exhibition in the next autumn season, the Municipal Art Collections of the Bologna Museums institution , to whose permanent heritage the oil painting Portrait of Gonfaloniere belongs . Acquired by the Municipality of Bologna in 1910 for the legacy of Agostino Sieri Pepoli, the work can be admired in Room 1 of the museum where large seventeenth-century paintings are collected depicting the faces of gentlemen and gentlewomen of ancient families.
Strongly desired by the director Gabriele Finaldi and curated by Letizia Treves (curator of Italian, Spanish and French painting of the seventeenth century at the National Gallery), the exhibition project, entitled simply Artemisia , was conceived following the acquisition in 2018 by the museum London Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria , the first painting by the artist to enter a public collection in the United Kingdom.
The exhibition brings together about 30 carefully selected works from institutions and private collections around the world, most of which have never been exhibited in Great Britain, and autograph documents recently discovered and presented for the first time to the public, to retrace an extraordinary career that lasted over 40 years old, as admired for the immense talent as marked by a tormented biographical story.
From Rome, where she was born and was formed by her father, Orazio Gentileschi, to Florence, where she obtained artistic independence and became the first woman admitted to the prestigious Academy of Drawing with the privilege of being able to boast the title of painter , and following Venice, London and Naples.
Often depicting seductive female heroic subjects, his paintings were primarily intended for private clients. Today they are recognized for their dramatic power and their original narrative, showing Artemisia as one of the most compelling artists of his time.
Portrait of Gonfaloniere was executed in 1622, as attested by the autograph signature once readable on the back of the canvas, before its re-lining: ARTEMISIA GENTILESCA FACIEBAT ROMAE 1622. The painting, one of the few of the painter to be dated, constitutes a fundamental document of his portraiture activity , praised by contemporaries but not otherwise evidenced by certain works.
The identity of the pontifical gonfalonier portrayed in full figure is unknown. He sports an elegant military armor beautifully enhanced by the vibrant luminous quality of the pictorial fabric. The left hand rests on the hilt of the sword, inserted in the scabbard, while the right rests on a small table, covered with a cloth with an unidentified emblem embroidered on it. Above it rests a helmet with a feather crest. On the back wall the shadow of the knight is projected and next to it is the papal banner, which he was supposed to have the task of carrying in the parade. The painting carefully reproduces the lively expression of man and the consistency of the different materials depicted, such as fabrics and metal, thanks to a skilful dosage of shadows.
In the seventeenth century armor was worn by knights only during parades or tournaments. For this reason, in the painting the metal armament covers the whole body, but the thin fabric cuffs emerge from the bracelets and the so-called ‘lettuce’ neck from the armor. The trifoliate cross forged on the breastplate and the silk band tied above indicate that the man portrayed was a member of a chivalric order. The long sword, a rapier, and the feathered helmet, completed the armament, but above all had a symbolic function.
The setting of the painting corresponds to the tested typology of the courtly full-length portrait introduced by Titian, aimed at commemorating the social and political role of the person depicted through the attributes of rank. In spite of this traditional scheme, the liveliness and psychological penetration of the portrait, the bold cut of the light with a clear Caravaggesque imprint, the virtuosity in the rendering of the different materials, make this painting a masterpiece of extraordinary modernity , one of the best examples of portraiture Italian in the seventeenth century.