Art restorers in Florence have begun a six-month project to clean and virtually “unveil” a long-censored nude painting by Artemisia Gentileschi. Veils and drapery were added to the “Allegory of Inclination” some 70 years after Gentileschi painted the life-size female nude in 1616.
The artwork, believed to be a self-portrait, is by Artemisia Gentileschi. She was one of the most prominent women in the history of Italian art.
The work to reveal the image as originally painted comes as Gentileschi’s contribution to Italian Baroque art is getting renewed attention in the #MeToo era. She is being re-examined both for her artistic achievements but also for breaking into the male-dominated art world after being raped by one of her art teachers.
Her work was featured in a 2020 exhibit at the National Gallery in London.
“Through her, we can talk about how important it is to restore artwork, how important it is to restore the stories of women to the forefront,” said Linda Falcone, coordinator of the Artemisia Up Close project.
Allegory of Inclination
Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, the great-nephew of the famed artist, originally commissioned “Allegory of Inclination”. The building later became the Casa Buonarotti museum. Until recently, it was displayed until recently on the ceiling in a gilded frame.
When lead conservator Elizabeth Wick removed the painting in late September, a shower of 400-year-old dust fell.
Wick’s team of restorers is using ultraviolet light, diagnostic imaging and X-rays to differentiate Gentileschi’s brush strokes from those of the artist that covered the nudity. The public can watch the project underway until April 23rd.
Restorers won’t be able remove the veils because the cover-up was done too soon after the original. This raised concerns Gentileschi’s painting would be damaged in the process.
Instead, the restoration team plans to create a digital image of the original version. It will be displayed in an exhibition on the project opening in September 2023.
Who was Gentilsechi?
Gentileschi arrived in Florence shortly after the trial in Rome of her rapist. While in Florence, Gentileschi also won commissions from the Medici family.
She had a distinctive, dramatic and energetic style. Inspired by Caravaggio, many of her paintings featured female heroines, often in violent scenes and often nude.
She was 22 when she painted “Allegory of Inclination,” which was commissioned by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger. Another member of the family decided to have it embellished to protect the sensibilities of his wife and children.
“This is one of her first paintings. In the Florentine context, it was her debut painting, the same year she was accepted into the Academy of Drawing,” Falcone said.