Pisa is enriched with a valuable portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi, created by Simon Vouet: the work purchased for Palazzo Blu

Pisa, purchase for Palazzo Blu: a very important portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi by Simon Vouet arrives.

In Pisa, in the halls of Palazzo Blu, a new work arrives to enrich the museum’s collections, thanks to a purchase finalized by the Pisa Foundation in June: it is the splendid Portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi executed by Simon Vouet (Paris, 1590 - 1649), on display in the halls of Palazzo Blu starting Saturday, September 28. The work was traced on the market in February this year: it is a painting that belonged to the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo, a well-known collector also famous for inventing the term Mona Lisa attributed to Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous painting. A work linked to Pisa for two main reasons: the family of Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome, 1593 - Naples, 1654), originally from the Tuscan city (but not only: it is in fact established that Artemisia, in Pisa, inherited and perhaps acquired several properties of which she took care even after the death of her husband, the painter Pierantonio Stiattesi, during her stay in Naples, and it is conceivable that the painter traveled from Naples to Pisa a few times), and the commissioner, who was a nephew of Cardinal Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo, archbishop of Pisa from 1582 to 1607 (one of the most important in the city’s history). The portrait was executed in Rome around 1623, when the painter was about 30 years of age, and is the only known portrait of Artemisia by Vouet.

Discovered in the early 2000s by Roberto Contini and Francesco Solinas, the Portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi is a “talking picture,” given its sumptuous realism and also given the undeniable references that allow the portraitist to be identified as Artemisia Gentileschi. These include the detail of the paintbrush held in her right hand and the medallion with a circular building and the Greek inscription Mausoleion: this is in fact the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, built by Princess Artemisia for Mausolus, her brother and husband (a cultured and refined detail that therefore allows it to be unequivocally traced back to the painter). The elegant composition, typical of Simon Vouet on his return from his trip to Genoa and northern Italy, made between 1620 and 1622, confirms according to Solinas the authorship, akin to other female half-figures painted by the French artist in those years.

Until March 8, 2020, the work will be temporarily exhibited in the rooms of the noble residence of Palazzo Blu along with a work by Artemisia already in the institute’s collections, namely Clio muse of history: from that date, the works will then be loaned to the National Gallery in London, where a major exhibition dedicated to the seventeenth-century painter, curated by Letizia Treves, is planned for spring-summer 2020. The two works will finally return to Pisa in September 2020, where they will find their definitive home in the renovated spaces dedicated to Pisan art in Palazzo Blu, particularly in the room dedicated to the Lomi-Gentileschi family. The work thus adds to an important nucleus of the collection, enhancing it through a dedicated display.

“This is a very important acquisition for this museum and for Italy,” Professor Solinas tells Finestre sull’Arte, “because this painting, executed in Rome in 1623, is a jewel of seventeenth-century painting and one of the most important portraits of early seventeenth-century Europe, but not only that: it is also a testimony to an extraordinary moment in art history, that of the first decades of the seventeenth century in Rome.”

“To have this work, here at Palazzo Blu, with Artemisia Gentileschi’s Clio, is beautiful,” Letizia Treves emphasizes. “The arrangement with the two works side by side allows the public to have a direct encounter with the painter, which is very important for Pisa. A relationship with the city also made closer by the fact that the painting belonged to the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo, who had ties with Pisa: therefore, the work acquires additional relevance because of its historical provenance.” As mentioned, Vouet’s portrait and Artemisia’s Clio will be together in London, in an exhibition that, Letizia Treves assures, will be “very selective, because it will be composed of thirty-five paintings, all of the highest level and documented.” The presence of the works in London will serve for an in-depth study of the artist’s image: “Artemisia’s face,” Treves explains, “is associated with the various Susannas and Giudittas present in her production: that of Vouet, on the other hand, is a real portrait, executed by another painter, and is important for documenting her image. In London, the French painter’s painting will be exhibited in an intimate setting: I would like visitors to have face-to-face contact with the painter, which will gain further value because the works will be exhibited together with a selection of Artemisia’s letters that were found only a few years ago, and published in Italian by Francesco Solinas, who discovered them. These are documents that have never been seen abroad. In the context of the exhibition it will be, in essence, a pause for reflection on the image and fame of the painter.”

With the purchase of Vouet’s Portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi, the Pisa Foundation wanted to bring a painting of great importance to the city and donate it to public enjoyment. Among its institutional purposes, the Pisa Foundation in fact also has that of enriching and enhancing the cultural heritage of the territory, which is why the institution has always been committed to bringing back or maintaining in Pisa works of art or testimonies of historical value that relate to the city and its territory, through the acquisition of works related to the Pisa area, by author, commission or theme. In addition, the Foundation’s orientation is to acquire works of great quality, important and at the same time representative of the history and art of Pisa. These works then go on to enrich the Foundation’s art collections and, as in this case, are made available to the public in the rooms of Palazzo Blu.

Pictured: Simon Vouet, Portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi (c. 1623; oil on canvas, 90 x 71 cm; Pisa, Palazzo Blu)

Pisa is enriched with a valuable portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi, created by Simon Vouet: the work purchased for Palazzo Blu
Pisa is enriched with a valuable portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi, created by Simon Vouet: the work purchased for Palazzo Blu

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