Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition opens in Florence
At long last, the restoration of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Inclination (1615-1616) will be unveiled as part of an exhibition celebrating and retracing the artist’s Florentine years.
Exhibition: Artemisia in the Museum of Michelangelo
Dates: 26 September 2023 – 8 January 2024
Location: Casa Buonarroti (Via Ghibellina, 70)
It was Michelangelo the Younger (nephew of the famous Michelangelo Buonarroti) who commissioned Gentileschi to paint the allegory, which would be installed into the ceiling of one of the palace's rooms, in a scheme celebrating the virtues of his uncle: the “divine” artist and poet.
The exhibition consists of three rooms on the ground floor, the first of which seeks to recreate the historical, social and cultural context of Gentileschi in Florence at the time of Michelangelo the Younger (1568-1646) where she would have met the scientist Galileo Galilei and composer Francesca Caccini, amongst many others. In the second, you’ll have a chance to see another restored painting by Gentileschi on loan from Palazzo Pitti and in the third, a video documentary of the entire restoration process, which includes a digital reconstruction based on scientific research carried out on the underlayers of the painting, to reveal what it might have looked like “behind the veils”. These heavier veils, which you can see today, were added to the originally nude painting by Baldassare Franceschini in 1684 following the instructions of Michelangelo the Younger’s great-nephew, Leonardo da Buonarroti.
The Inclination has been of great interest to us at Forte Academy in recent years, as it links to various themes on our summer courses, including that of a classical education: ancient educational theorists like Quintilian and Cicero thought that ingenium (‘inborn talent’) was planted by nature and guided each individual towards their course of study and path in life. This was taken up by Italian humanists who, drawn to the study of classical literature or letters, often praised each other’s ingenium – or natural inclination towards, and capacity for, such studies. In Gentileschi’s image, the north star above the figure’s head and the compass in her hand captures this same idea, visually, of inclination as a source of inspiration and direction. A highlight on Classics Abroad in Florence last year, was learning how to fresco in the ancient and Renaissance style by copying a portion of the Inclination for ourselves. We followed each step of the process, from preparing the base, tracing the image, the “spolvero” dusting, and mixing pigments to paint each isolated section whilst it was still ‘fresh’ (fresco).
The restoration of the Inclination was carried out by head conservator, Elizabeth Wicks, who kindly provided us with a high-quality image of the “cleaned” Inclination to include in our art-related seminars on Classics Abroad and Women Latinists this summer. The restoration project itself was funded by Calliope Arts and the self-taught art collector Christian Levett, who gave an excellent insight into his private collection in his talk at the Harold Acton Library last week. Christian was born in Essex: “my family wasn’t wealthy”, he told us, and he ended up teaching himself about art in his twenties whilst working as a hedge fund manager in Paris, where he purchased his first museum-quality work of art at 25. He is now the founder and owner of the Mougins Museum of Classical Art, which is going to re-open in 2024 as the first private European museum to display works exclusively by women artists. Watch this space!