Artemisia through her own eyes

On 08 December 2017, by Agathe Albi-Gervy
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652), "Saint Catherine of Alexandria", oil on canvas, 71 x 71 cm.
Estimate: €300,000/400,000

While psychological suffering is not essential to success, it seems to have been a vehicle for creativity with many artists. Artemisia Gentileschi is one of the most famous examples, with her Judiths slaying the assailant Holofernes. Here, the figure of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is her model, one she identified with because she rejected marriage and authority. Coming from a private French collection, this square painting can be compared with the "Saint Catherine" in the Uffizi in Florence, dating from between 1614 and 1616. Artemisia was then in her Florentine period, still artistically influenced by her father, Orazio. The Uffizi version differs from the one here in certain details like the turban, which is replaced by an impressive crown embellished with coloured stones. This painting can also be compared with the "Self-portrait as a Martyr" (private collection) and the "Self-portrait as a Lute-player" (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford), where the model – the same in all three cases – adopts a similar pose and expression. It would seem, then, that the "Saint Catherine" is also a self-portrait: one with a decidedly determined character.

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