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New Artemisia Gentileschi Pops Up on Lower East Side

Artemisia Gentileschi, “Portrait of an Unidentified Man” (1630-1640) (image from speronewestwater.com)

The Bowery isn’t the first place in New York you’d think of to run into a Baroque Old Master painting, but then when the “old master” in question is actually one of the pre-modern era’s only iconic female artists, maybe a little bit of downtown attitude should be expected. After a restoration that confirmed its attribution to the artist, “Portrait of an Unidentified Man” (1630-1640) by Artemisia Gentileschi is now on view at Sperone Westwater gallery.

A full-length portrait with the characteristic heavy chiaroscuro that defines both Baroque painting and much of Gentileschi’s other work, “Portrait of an Unidentified Man” shows a slyly grinning figure posted in contrapposto with both hands alighted on hips. The dark, swirling black clothing that the figure wears is another hallmark of Gentileschi’s work; check out this portrait of Maria Magdalene for comparison. The definitive attribution for this particular painting was made after conservators discovered an “AG” monogram on the man’s chest. Needless to say, it looks pretty badass, especially in installation views. The New York Sun notes that the painting “is likely from the period just after [Gentileschi] gained independence from her father, Orazio’s workshop.”

Gentileschi has risen to historical fame not only as an extraordinary painter who rose above gender biases in the 17th century, but also as a feminist icon. The painter’s depiction of Judith beheading Holofernes and early painting of Susanna and the Elders have become scrutinized in the context of Gentileschi’s sexual assault by a friend of her father, Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi. In an exhibition that features a who’s who of post-Renaissance Italian painting, Artemisia’s canvas takes its rightful place among works by Canaleto, Cavalier d’Arpinoand and Michele Marieschi.

Italian Paintings From the 17th and 18th Century is presented at Sperone by the London and Milan-based dealers Robilant & Voena; the galleries are also collaborating on a future joint space in London. Gentileschi’s canvas will make another public appearance in a survey of the artist’s work to be held in Milan. in In the meantime, enjoy this little slice of the Baroque that’s rarely on view. I love seeing Old Master paintings installed in modern galleries, so I’m pretty pumped to go check it out.

Italian Paintings From the 17th and 18th Century is on view at Sperone Westwater gallery (257 Bowery) through February 19.

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