Main content

Gentileschi's Revenge

Painter Caroline Walker explores the life and work of Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the great artists of the Baroque age.

Painter Caroline Walker explores the life and work of Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the greatest artists of the Baroque age, as she inspires a new generation of artists, writers and composers.

Gentileschi was born in Rome in 1593 and encouraged to paint by her famous artist father Orazio. She was inspired by the Baroque drama of her near contemporary Caravaggio, but took his vivid realism to the next level, particularly when it came to depictions of women. Her highly charged painting of the beheading of the Assyrian General Holofernes by the old Testament figure Judith is a blood-spattered portrait of female power over a man.

But, although Artemisia had an illustrious career as a painter, her reputation today is often overshadowed by the story of her rape as a teenager by her art teacher, and the very public trial and torture which followed.

In the wake of #MeToo and ahead of a major retrospective at the National Gallery, Caroline Walker looks at how Gentileschi has become a feminist icon for a new generation, and asks whether speculation by some that her paintings are a kind of revenge is accurate.

She explores how as a single mother in a violent and dangerous world, Gentileschi forged a successful career across Italy and beyond and became the first woman to join the artists' academy in Florence.

Producer: Jo Wheeler

A Freewheel Production for BBC Radio 3

Available now

44 minutes

Broadcast

Featured in...

Classical music in a strongman's Russia – has anything changed since Stalin's day?

Classical music in a strongman's Russia – has anything changed since Stalin's day?

What composer Gabriel Prokofiev and I found in Putin's Moscow...

Six Secret Smuggled Books

Six Secret Smuggled Books

Six classic works of literature we wouldn't have read if they hadn't been smuggled...

Grid

Grid

Seven images inspired by the grid

World Music collector, Sir David Attenborough

World Music collector, Sir David Attenborough

The field recordings Attenborough of music performances around the world.