Violence and Virtue: Artemisia Gentileschi's Judith Slaying Holofernes opens today in galleries 202 and 202A. This small but significant exhibition has as its anchor Gentileschi's most well-known work, Judith Slaying Holofernes, on loan to the Art Institute from Florence's Galleria degli Uffizi. This first-ever appearance in Chicago is the latest in a series of notable Baroque loans to the Art Institute, joining Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus in 2009 and The Lute Player, by Artemisia's father Orazio Gentileschi, in 2010.
The story of Gentileschi's rape by Italian painter Agostino Tassi and the ensuing legal trial is well-known. The heinousness of those events drove her to Florence, which is where her career blossomed, and this is the true story of Violence and Virtue. Curator Eve Straussman-Pflanzer's essay in the accompanying exhibition catalogue describes Gentileschi's eventful and turbulent time in Florence. As a woman in the artistic court of the powerful Medici family—an extreme rarity—Gentileschi's talent and identity were never in full accord or acceptance. Despite keeping company with renaissance luminaries of the day (Michelangelo's nephew and bad boy astronomer Galileo among them) she struggled for full acceptance and steady commissions. Her direct, climactic, and violent depiction of the popular Judith story didn't win her many fans, neither during her life nor for centuries afterward.
Indeed, while Artemisia Gentileschi and her Florentine Judith now hold a firm and celebrated place in the art historical canon, such notoriety was never certain. A 20th century redress of her talent and virtuosity gained much momentum during the 1970s, when Feminist-inspired reinterpretations of art history proliferated. Recognition has grown over the intervening decades, and Gentileschi is now seen as one of the most important artists to emerge from 17th-century Italy.
Image Credit: Artemisia Gentileschi. Judith Slaying Holofernes, c. 1620. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, inv. 1567.
6 hours 5 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—In 1963 Melvin Edwards began Lynch Fragments, a series of welded steel assemblages made in response to the tumultuous social climate of the Civil Rights movement. The title of the series evokes the horrifying images of racist mob violence, yet Edwards’s works distill the subject into a powerful sculptural language, fusing modernist abstraction with a sense of personal and collective history.
Afrophoenix No. 1—one of the earliest objects from the series—exemplifies how the artist physically transformed found objects and brought them together in poetically suggestive, tension-filled compositions. Here the formal arrangement of steel elements evokes an equestrian bridle and bit. Chains, hammers, nails, spikes, and screws magnify the sculpture’s associative power, recalling implements of labor and torture. At the same the title references the mythological phoenix—alluding to death, rebirth, and transformation.
See Afrophoenix No. 1 (1963) by Melvin Edwards in Gallery 289D.
10 hours 31 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—Modern Velvet: A Sense of Luxury in the Age of Industry
With their plush, inviting, and varied textures, the velvets featured in this exhibition showcase the diversity of modern velvet as well as the effects of industry on its production. As industrial innovations at the turn of the 19th century allowed for faster production and encouraged the use of less costly materials, designers and manufacturers of velvet sought to maintain its association with wealth, luxury, and splendor.
Learn how this elegant fabric has inspired designers for centuries, with a wide range of examples from the 19th century to present day—closing March 19.
21 hours 30 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago Just like the museum's collection comes from artists around the world, so does the Museum Shop’s assortment of products. We source exclusive products from artisans that are inspired by the cultures, mediums, and techniques represented in our museum collection. View our assortment of unique items from India.