Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter in the dramatic realism style of Carvaggio, was born in 1593 in Rome, and was the daughter of Baroque italian painter Orazio Gentileschi, who himself was at the forefront of the new Baroque painting style and was also a contemporary of Carvaggio. Her mother Prudentia Montoni died in 1605 when Artemisia was only 12 years old, not long after Artemisia began her own study of painting under the influence of her father. Unfortunately her home proved a risk to Artemisia, who at the age of 17 was raped by a fellow painter known by the family while her father was away. Her father claimed injury only after her rapist rescinded his offer to marry Artemisia (as recompense for his crime) and a lengthy and public trial ensued. To add insult to injury Artemisia herself was subjected to a form of torture that was a method believed to bring truth.
After the trial Artemisia was married off to a Florentine painter, Pierantonio Stiattesi. After the couple relocated to Florence, Artemisia acquired patronage from the grand duchess of Tuscany by request of her father, who assured the duchess of his daughter’s exceptional artistic talents. This tied her to the Medici court. While in Florence she became the first woman to enter the Florentine Academy of Fine Arts. Her talents and artistic works were well received, but her personal life was not without sorrow. Out of the 4 children she and her husband conceived only 1, a daughter named Prudentia (who later herself became an artist), survived. After the family relocated to Rome, her husband left his family. Artemisia, now a single mother, left for Venice where she received commissions but fled abruptly to avoid the Plague of 1630 and ended up in Spanish-ruled Naples where she received more commissions including her first altarpiece of her career. The majority of Artemisia’s works centered around historical events and Biblical stories, representing heroines as strong depictions of women. One of her most well-known paintings, Judith Beheading Holofernes (c. 1612–13; c. 1620), represented Judith, a heroine in a position of power. Artemisia’s work is known for its strong sense of bodily movement and rich colors. Her father, Orazio, relocated to England after being commissioned by the English court of King Charles I and soon Artemisa rejoined her father in London. There she worked alongside her father. After her father’s death in 1639, she stayed for a few years in England, where she gained and surpassed the popularity of her father painting portraits. Eventually, Artemisia returned to Naples where she lived until her death in 1652.