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Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-Naples 1652)

Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) c.1638-9

Oil on canvas | 98.6 x 75.2 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405551

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Artemisia Gentileschi is shown conceiving the idea for a painting – her brush poised ready to realise her vision on the empty canvas. Dressed in a dirtied apron and leaning on a grinding stone, she strains to observe her subject, sleeves pushed up to reveal muscular forearms. The gold chain around her neck – on which hangs a mask symbolising imitation – as well as her wild hair and iridescent dress, all correspond with the description of 'Pittura', the female personification of Painting. In conflating her own likeness with 'Pittura', Gentileschi creates a truly original image – and one unavailable to her male contemporaries.