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But that is not the whole story. It is also unquestionably true that her images of naked women have a sensitivity to the characters of the woman portrayed, and a fidelity to the features of the bodies of the real women she observed — round bellies, uneven breasts, for instance — that were usually absent from male artists’ depictions. It is inconceivable that Artemisia would have depicted Lucretia as Felice Ficherelli did in his offensively lubricious portrayal of her rape by Tarquin: Lucretia in Ficherelli’s version appears not only to have an impossibly perfect physique, perfectly poised for ogling by the viewer, but to be complicit in her own rape.

The exhibition at the Palazzo Braschi provides a marvellous opportunity for assessing Artemisia’s work. It has pictures from every stage of her career, and it sets them in the context of work by her competitors and assistants. The comparison demonstrates that in purely artistic terms — the capacity to handle paint, to create striking and beautiful compositions, to imbue figures with character and feeling — she was much better than most of them. When you see the paintings of artists such as Simon Vouet or Giuseppe Vermiglio next to hers, you realise that she was not only more technically competent: she also had a broader, more humane vision.

It also enables you to see how her style changed over the course of her life. Her pictures became more monumental. Explicit violence goes out. Tender human feeling is in, although sometimes with extremely sinister implications: her painting of Lot and his daughters, depicting as it does the episode when Lot’s daughters get him drunk in order to have sex with him so as to be able to conceive children, is a deeply unsettling image.

Artemisia was also a very skilled portraitist. Her picture of a woman known only as The Lady with the Fan, for example, is remarkable for its portrayal of the swagger of a self-confident woman ostentatiously twirling her pearls; while her portrait of Antoine de Ville captures the anxious smirk of a cavaliere not quite as self-assured as he would like to be.

If she is not at the very top of the hierarchy of Western artists — and even at her best, she is not an artist of the calibre of Rembrandt or Rubens or Caravaggio — her art can be tremendously effective, as this exhibition proves. There is an excellent catalogue that carefully addresses her stylistic evolution and the complicated question of attribution. The number of works that can be securely attributed to Artemisia seems to vary from year to year. In 2013, an exceptional picture, in a private collection, known only as Santa a mezzo busto was identified as her work. In 2014, a beautifully restrained and delicate picture of the death of Cleopatra was sold at an auction in Brussels as “Dutch School, 17th century” before being attributed to Artemisia. Neither attribution is unchallenged. There is much scholarly blood still to be spilt, and perhaps quite a lot of money to be made, in determining what is, and what is not, a genuine Artemisia Gentileschi. As a confidently commercial artist, it is a compliment that she would  have appreciated.
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