Judith and her Maidservant (1613-14) Oil on canvas Palazzo Pitti, Florence (via Wikipedia)

This passage in Rachel Spence’s otherwise straightforward review of the current Artemisia Gentileschi: Story of a Passion exhibiton at the Palazzo Reale, Milan, immediately caught my attention yesterday in the Financial Times:

Yet it starts with an appalling lapse of taste, ushering visitors into a dim-lit room empty save for an unmade bed beneath a curtain of handwritten manuscripts, accompanied by a recording of an actress reciting Gentileschi’s testimony of her rape by the painter Agostino Tassi.

She goes on the hope that this isn’t an attempt to cast the painter as a Baroque version of the contemporary British artist known for making work about her sexual exploits, Tracey Emin. There is one other notable part of Spence’s review, namely her claim that there is a “possibly Sapphic” element in Gentileschi’s work — I just don’t see it.

When the New York Times reviewed the show last week they glossed over the curious introduction but they did point out what they thought was revelatory about the show:

… Artemisia’s long-term love affair with the Florentine nobleman Francesco Maria di Niccolò Maringhi, witnessed by some fascinating autograph love letters on display for the first time, as notable for the artist’s faulty grammar and idiosyncratic spelling as for her forthright expressions of passion.

This show, which features 50 canvases by Gentileschi, sounds like a must-see, and it continues until January 29, 2012.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.