Artemisia Gentileschi Exhibition


Aimee Towndrow

Last month I visited the Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition at Museo di Roma near Piazza Navona, coincidentally at the time we were studying her work and the Baroque in art history class so it was a nicely timed excursion. I was blown away not only by the magnificent quality of the paintings but how many there were: the rooms flowed from one to another, filled with exquisite paintings upon paintings. Although I had viewed her work online while researching, it made a huge difference to see the pieces in reality. If only for the scale of her pieces – almost each and every one of them were life size, and this enabled me to pick up on details I otherwise may have missed. One of these was the impeccably depicted skin of the figures, the use of chiaroscuro to highlight certain aspects.  Particularly in her painting of Saint John the Baptist – it appears to glow. This exhibition was yet another example of being able to look at a topic in class, in this case in art history, and then go out and see it. In fact, one of the reasons I love studying in Rome is because it brings to life what is in a textbook and allows you to view it from another perspective, and, besides, I always find art a lot more interesting when I know the story behind the work. The collection also included Judith and Holofernes – another example of when knowing the narrative makes the work all the more fulfilling. Also, as I had previously seen Caravaggio’s version at Palazzo Barberini, it was cool to be able to compare the two. Gentileschi was considered a Caravaggisti and her take came across completely differently, and knowing this enabled me to admire the work in more depth. In conclusion, the exhibition was one of my favourites, greatly influenced by the context I had gained in class.