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March exhibits honor artistic talent and hairstyles of Renaissance women


As part of the exhibits in Italy celebrating Women’s History Month, the works of Artemisia Gentileschi will be featured at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa throughout the month of March. The exhibit titled “Courage and Passion” features the extraordinary talent of this warrior artist.

Artemesia was the daughter of renowned artist Orazio Gentileschi, one of the best of the era and a friend to Caravaggio. She was the only woman of her time to be admitted to an art academy and her works sprang from personal tragedy and her relationship with her father and the era in which she lived. She is still remembered today not just for her courage in reporting sexual abuse at the age of 17 but for her extraordinary talent, recognized in the most prominent European courts.

Artemesia Gentileschi is remembered today not just for her courage in reporting sexual abuse at the age of 17 but for her extraordinary talent. 

The exhibition, curated by Costantino d’Orazio, tells the story of her life and career through 50 works, from her beginnings in her father Orazio’s workshop to her full maturity as an artist. This transition was exemplified by the presence of two canvases depicting “Susanna and the Elders.” The first work was created in 1610 and the other circa 1649. Her works reflect the many changes of this period, the influence of other renowned artists such as Caravaggio and the great heroines with whom she connected. One of these is reflected in her painting “Lucretia,” a Roman heroine who killed herself after being raped. Other well-known pieces are “Judith Slaying Holofernes” and “Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes” both depicting the strength of women.

Another exhibit that will run through April 7 is “Faustina’s Braids: Hairstyles, women, and power in the Renaissance” at the Galleria d’Italia in Vicenza. On display is the fascinating history of female hair from the 15th and 16th centuries. The exhibit, curated by Howard Burns, Vincenzo Farinella and Mauro Mussolin, is based on a treatise written in 1562 by scholar Giovanni Marinello. In his work “Gli Ornamenti delle Donne” he wrote of a world with “long, thin, copious, frizzy hair, and blonde in color, like gold.” The exhibit features the hairstyles of Roman matrons with a focus on the styles created for Empress Faustina Maggiore, wife of Antoninus Pius. She is illustrated with rows of curls framing her face and braids wrapped up to the top of her head. In the approximately 70 works on display – including paintings, sculptures, ancient coins, drawings, and printed volumes – there are infinite variations depicting moral and social connotations. Artists such as Bellini, Mantegna, Titian, and Ghiberti are just a few who give a glimpse of the women of the Renaissance and their importance in Italian society and influence on fashion mores.

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