Female painter second only to Caravaggio smashes auction record

She has been described as second only to Caravaggio among 17th century Italian artists, and now Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652) has smashed her own record at auction.

On Tuesday (19 December 2017), the Baroque painter’s ‘Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine’ sold to an unknown buyer for a monumental £2,085,164 at Drouot in Paris (a hammer price of £1,634,036). The sale price easily outstripped the pre-sale estimate of £265,000-£353,000 and broke the artist’s previous record of £879,800 for ‘Magdalen in Ecstasy’ set at auction in 2014.

Dating from 1614-1616, the painting was previously unknown to scholars until it was discovered by auctioneer Christophe Joron-Derem. It depicts the artist as Saint-Catherine in half-length with the martyr’s palm frond and spiked wheel. Among several paintings by Gentileschi including the ‘Magdalen’, which have been recently rediscovered, the work is considered the finest. It is also influenced by the work of the artist’s father, Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639), a follower of Caravaggio.

An accomplished artist, Gentileschi is also held up as a symbol of feminist empowerment. She is said to have used her celebrity as one of the first female painters recognised in her time to her benefit by painting portraits of herself dressed in the guise of historical, religious and allegorical female figures.

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