Artemisia Gentileschi’s: Self-Portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria

The Italian painter who overcame torture at the hands of the establishment, presents herself as a pillar of power

Wheels of justice …

Artemisia Gentileschi was frequently her own model. In this work from 1615-17, she poses as St Catherine who, condemned to death on a spiked wheel by Romans, was a particularly pointed choice. The artist had also endured torture at the hands of the establishment. When she was raped by an artist friend of her father at the age of 18, she was subjected to thumbscrews to test the validity of her account during the ensuing trial.

Ahead of the pack …

Gentileschi’s determination to succeed in this world, overcoming terrific odds to become one of its most in-demand artists, has made her one of art history’s flaming feminist icons. Her fury appears to have been vented in the paintings she made shortly after her trial, of the biblical Judith brutally severing the head of Holofernes.

See me …

As with Rembrandt’s self-portraits, Gentileschi’s are partly an act of self-promotion. Given the prejudice she overcame, casting herself as saints, heroic nudes and, in one instance, an allegory of painting itself, is also an early, powerful example of the politics of representation.

Glasgow Women’s Library, to 19 March

Contributor

Skye Sherwin

The GuardianTramp

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