“We explore some of the historical and cultural movements that have shaped our present (Gamble, 2003).”

Judith and Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes--Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi was a female artist who followed the works of Caravaggio (The Calling of Saint Matthew and Bacchus)(Stokstad, 2008). This particular piece was painted in 1625 by Gentileschi and features two women in the candlelight listening for something (Stokstad, 2008). Judith, the woman in yellow, holds a sword in her right hand while her maidservant (in purple) stuffs a man’s head into a bad at her feet. The man’s head belongs to Assyrian ruler Holofernes (Stockstad, 2008), who was known for his tyrannical ways. Judith’s story is equivalent to the story of David: it’s basically about the underdog who overcomes her suppressor (Moran, 2008).

I choose this piece because Gentileschi was a woman artist in the 17th century who frequently depicted women in her pieces that somehow held a certain power over men–an early feminist, if you will. Gentileschi portrayed her women this way because she had been raped and had taken her attacker to court, where the judge promtly decided that she was the guilty party and not the man who had attacked her (Moran, 2008). Gentileschi didn’t necessarily have the power to change the way people viewed women during her time through protests and such–like the US feminists of the 19th century did–but she could depict women in a stronger position through her artwork. By viewing some of her artwork, it’s safe to say that Gentileschi was a historical artist who took some steps to advertise the suppression of women by glorifying them as stronger than their male counter parts.

Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2003). The Gender Communication Connection. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Gentileschi, A. (1625). Judith and maidservant with the head of holofernes. Oil on canvas: Detroit Institute of Arts.

Moran, E. (March 2008). Baroque art. Newport News, VA. Classroom lecture.

Stokstad, M. (2008). Art history: volume two. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.


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