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'ARTEMISIA IN THE MUSEUM OF MICHELANGELO': In the spotlight

Artemisia’s censored painting revealed, in the exhibition ‘Artemisia in the Museum of Michelangelo’ curated by museum director Alessandro Cecchi, from September 27 2023 to January 8, 2024.


Installation shot of the exhibition, ph. Olga Makarova



Artemisia’s nude Allegory of Inclination seen as the artist painted it. Allegory of Inclination, revealed after a year-long restoration, in the show ‘Artemisia in the Museum of Michelangelo’ at Florence’s Casa Buonarroti – an international endeavour spotlighting the painter’s prolific Florentine period and the iconic women-on-canvas that gave Artemisia her start. A 400-year-old fingerprint, a newly visible bellybutton, the original contours of Artemisia Gentileschi’s censored painting… and more.



Installation shot of the exhibition, ph. Olga Makarova




A virtual quest to uncover Artemisia’s original

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Allegory of Inclination, the keynote artwork at the newly inaugurated exhibition ‘Artemisia in the Museum of Michelangelo’ – open until January 8 at Casa Buonarroti in Florence, Italy – was rendered more beguiling by the censoring of the original nude allegorical figure, nearly 50 years after she painted it, by order of Leonardo Buonarroti a descendent of Michelangelo. The addition of heavy swirling veils to cover the nudity was intended to preserve the modesty of the female inhabitants of the house.

 

The big question

Why remove the veils virtually, not physically? “The Artemisia UpClose project – which brought together Italian, American, Canadian and British philanthropists, curators, and conservation experts – was conceived knowing that the censoring cover-up would not be removed for two reasons,” explains head conservator Elizabeth Wicks, “First, the removal of the thick layers of oil paint applied by Il Volterrano less than five decades after the original could put Artemisia’s delicate glazes just underneath the over-paint at risk. Second, the veils were applied by an important late Baroque artist and are now part of the painting’s history. Restoration scientists probed the painting at 16 depths, nanometer by nanometer. The reflectograph penetrated the upper drapery, and we could see Artemisia’s pentimenti – the places in which she changed her mind. It took an x-ray to see through the white lead pigment covering the figure’s thighs – but, in the end, we got it: a science-based image of Artemisia’s original.” 

 

A heroine among heroines

The Florence exhibition puts Artemisia at ‘eye level’, as visitors have the opportunity to see Artemisia’s powerful women up-close, for the first time. In Florence, Artemisia found herself within the social circle and influence of the poet Michelangelo the Younger. Here, she would become the first woman painter to be admitted to the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, make the acquaintance of Galileo Galilei and earn commissions from the upper echelons of Florentine society, including Grand Duke Cosimo II.” Particularly worthy of note, is Artemisia’s Penitent Mary Magdalene, from the Palatine Gallery (Uffizi Galleries), recently restored at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure.



Installation shot of the exhibition, ph. Olga Makarova

 


The heart of the exhibition

‘Artemisia in the Museum of Michelangelo’, curated by museum director Alessandro Cecchi and designed by Massimo Chimenti of Culturanuova, is presented in three rooms on the ground floor of Casa Buonarroti. “That singular Allegory of Inclination painted in 1616, as a commission from Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, symbolically launched a series of celebratory images hailing the virtues of Michelangelo Buonarroti – the ‘divine’ artist and poet on in the ceiling of the Gallery in the family home is at the heart of this exhibition dedicated to Artemisia Gentileschi and her time in Florence,” explains Cristina Acidini, president of the Casa Buonarroti Foundation. “We hope ‘Artemisia UpClose’ will represent the first in a long series for the recovery of the paintings in the Casa Buonarroti Gallery and its adjoining seventeenth-century rooms,” adds exhibition curator and museum director Alessandro Cecchi. “The Allegory of Inclination, Artemisia’s first recorded work commissioned in Florence, and the show, in general, explains how this painting fits into the iconological programme conceived by Michelangelo the Younger for the Galleria di Casa Buonarroti, with the aim of representing the Renaissance master’s many extraordinary qualities.”

 

The volume in English, Artemisia UpClose (The Florentine Press, September 2023) edited by project coordinator Linda Falcone, contains essays by world-renowned Artemisia scholars, including Mary D. Garrard and Elizabeth Cropper, will be accompanied by a series of publications in Italian entitled “Buonarrotiana” (2023) containing research by specialists on Artemisia and her era, followed by a series of lectures.


Artemisia in the Museum of Michelangelo is part of the Artemisia UpClose project conceived and sponsored by Calliope Arts and Christian Levett, in conjunction with Casa Buonarroti Museum and Foundation.

 

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