A Gaze for the Ages
Mary Magdalene as Melancholy (pictured above and below on left) is the personification of melancholia and believed to be a self portrait of the artist, Artemisia Gentileschi. This work is a copy Gentileschi made of her previous painting, Penitent Magdalene, (pictured below on right) which resides at the Seville Cathedral in Spain.
Interestingly, x-rays revealed alterations in Penitent Magdalene in both the face and the widening of the cloth covering the subject's shoulder, probably because the original appearance was considered too risqué for the church. Looking at these two works side by side, it's easy to see the concealment of the bosom and the lack of vibrancy in the later work -- but what I find most striking are the differing gazes.
The Penitent Magdalene castes a pensive downward gaze, suggestive of guilt and shame, and an unawareness that she is being looked upon, whereas Mary Magdalene as Melancholy holds a melancholic, yet direct gaze (detail of gaze pictured below) making us the viewers very much aware that she knows we are looking upon her.
Gentileschi is a tremendous Italian Baroque painter, whose incredible work has been largely unsung owing to sexism in the art world. The injustice doesn't begin there. As a teenager she was raped by her painting mentor. He went unpunished, while she was tortured with thumbscrews during the trial to see if she was being truthful. And her "reputation" was "ruined".
When viewing Gentileschi's work we are fortunate to have a window into a 17th century female perspective - Amazing! In Mary Magdalene as Melancholy, one can't help seeing the hurt and anger and fire behind her gaze. These subtle changes between the two works speak volumes about the oppression of women and importance of women telling their own stories.
Having said all this, I really want to express the joy I felt running into Artemisia Gentilesch, at the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City! Gentileschi's work seems to be gaining more recognition as of the 2010's. She's a bad-ass feminist, and an artist well worth knowing, if you don't already.
I created this space to showcase my past work, chronicle my current projects, and share my inspiration.