ca. 1625-30
oil on canvas
Unframed: 38 × 56 5/8 in. (96.52 × 143.83 cm)
Framed: 51 3/4 × 69 11/16 × 3 3/4 in. (131.45 × 177.01 × 9.53 cm)

Artemisia Gentileschi, who trained in Rome with her father, Orazio, was the leading female artist of the 17th century. She worked mainly in Rome, Florence, and Naples. In 1616, she became the first female member of Florence’s noted Academy of Painting.

Gentileschi’s work, which is marked by the strong contrasts of light and dark as well as unusual, bold compositions, was influenced both by her father’s painting style and that of his famous associate, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Her subject matter often consists of powerfully rendered portrayals of women – Judith, Susanna, Cleopatra, and Danäe, for example – dramatically depicted either as heroines or victims.

In this work, however, Gentileschi has created a sumptuous image of Venus, the Goddess of Love, asleep under a velvet hanging. Her bedcover is painted with ultramarine, an expensive pigment made from powdered lapis lazuli. Behind her, Cupid wields a peacock-feather fan to keep pests from annoying or waking her. At the left is a view of a mountainous landscape with a small circular temple, reminiscent of the one dedicated to Venus near Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli, just outside of Rome.


Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
Caso, Ángeles. Grandes Maestras: Mujeres En El Arte Occidental: Renacimiento-siglo XIX. Oviedo: Libros De La Letra Azul, 2017. (fig no 100, pp. 126-127)

Editors, Phaidon Phaidon, and Rowan Pelling. The Art of the Erotic. London: Phaidon, 2017, p. 43 illus, p. 205 entry

Andrea Mirabile. Scrivere la pittura. La ‘funzione Longhi’ nella letteratura italiana (Ravenna, Italy: Longo Editore, 2009) b&w ill. p. 162.

Barriault, Anne B., and Kay M. Davidson. Selections from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond, VA: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007. (pp 214-215)

Judith W. Mann, Artemisia Gentileschi: Taking Stock (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepolis Publishers, 2005) p. 6, b&w ill. fig. 10, p. 8.

Steven L. Jones, "Sound Investments," Style Weekly December 10, 2003, p. 35, b&w ill.

2001: An Art Odyssey 1500-1720 Classicism, Mannerism. Caravaggism and Baroque, Beverly Louise Brown, MATTIESEN (eds), exh. cat, Matthiesen Fine Art Limited , St. James London, pp. 263-269, illus. 262, 265.

"Top Treasures," Art & Antiques, November 2002, p. 99, color ill.

"A Selection of 2001 Museum Acquisitions," Apollo, December 2001, Vol. CLIV, No. 478, p. 40, color ill.

“Un Gentileschi à Richmond,” Connaissance des Arts, December 2001, p. 28, color ill.

Roy Proctor, “Love at First Sight,” Richmond Times-Dispatch Sunday, October 5, 2001, p. C1-C2, color ill. p. C1.

Alex Nyerges, “Why Art Museums Matter,” Richmond Times Dispatch Sunday, April 25, 2010, p. E-1, color ill.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Artemisia Gentileschi
VMFA in association with New Millienium Studios

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