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September 2003

Orazio Gentileschi's Saint Cecilia and an Angel

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2003 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2003

Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2003;5(5):456. doi:10.1001/archfaci.5.5.456

ORAZIO GENTILESCHI (1563-1639) belonged to the first generation of followers of the great Italian baroque genius of the 17th century, Michelangelo Caravaggio. Orazio enjoyed a prolific and highly successful professional career, but in modern times his success has been overshadowed by popular interest in the tragically sensational life of his daughter Artemisia. Scholars intent upon exposing psychological and autobiographical subtexts within Artemisia's paintings risk overlooking the lyrical grace in the painting of her father. Orazio began his career working in the mannered Florentine style until 1600 when Caravaggio's paintings of the Calling and Martyrdom of St. Matthew were unveiled at the church of San Luigi dei Francesci in Rome. Caravaggio's canvases, with their shallow, stagelike compositions, theatrical lighting, bold chiaroscuro, and unrelieved naturalism, exposed the blandness and artificiality of conventional Italian painting. Caravaggio's style had a profound impact upon Orazio, who at the age of 40 abandoned his former style and began to produce his first Caravaggesque works. After Caravaggio's flight from Rome in 1606 for murdering his tennis partner, Orazio became the most celebrated naturalist painter in the city. Orazio presided over an active workshop and had started training his daughter Artemisia as a painter. However, in 1611 the 17-year-old Artemisia was brutally raped by Orazio's sometime artistic collaborator, Agostino Tassi. Following her disgrace in Rome, Artemisia was hastily married by her father and went to live in Florence where she began her own artistic career. Orazio remained in Rome and continued working in his Caravaggesque style until he left for Genoa in 1623. Three years later, Queen Marie de Medici called him to Paris where he attracted the notice of the Duke of Buckingham, the favorite of Charles I, who immediately offered him a position at the Caroline court.