National Gallery acquires Artemisia Gentileschi self-portrait

The National Gallery has acquired a recently discovered self-portrait by Italian baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi with Art Fund support.

London’s National Gallery has acquired Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the most celebrated and accomplished female artists of the Italian Baroque period.

The £3.6m acquisition is one of only three easel paintings by the artist in the country, with the other paintings housed in the Burghley House Collection and the Royal Collection.

Gentileschi’s legacy is hugely influential – as a follower of Caravaggio, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia del Disegno, a prestigious academy of artists in Florence, and her clients included the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Charles I of England and Philip IV of Spain.

Her talent is often overshadowed by her dramatic biography: fellow painter Agostino Tassi was convicted of raping her following a gruelling trial in which she was persecuted and physically tortured. Despite extremely difficult personal circumstances, she thrived to become one of the most talented artists of that period.

Her paintings often feature strong female figures and can be read as autobiographical. Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria depicts Gentileschi as a saint-like figure resting her hand on the top of a broken spiked wheel, indicating the fate of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, who was sentenced to death by being bound to revolving wheels studded with iron spikes and nails.

The oil painting, dating from about 1615-17, will undergo conservation treatment before going on display in early 2019.

Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund, said: 'Art Fund is proud to support the National Gallery’s acquisition and conservation of this compelling and important self-portrait. We’re delighted that it may now be enjoyed by the public for ever more.'

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