The Queer Question Related to Gender

Locker, Jesse. Artemisia Gentileschi: the language of painting. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. 

This is one of the newest books written about the life of famous renown painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Many books have been written about her life prior to the turn of the new millennium, however never before did they dig as deep as this did into the later part of her life.

This book is relevant to the understand of queer studies for not just what it did have, which did not relate to Artemisia’s personal relations outside of acquaintances, but for what it lacked: analysing any of her artwork for the possibility of a sexual desire underly.

As we have seen in previous posts, Art Historians have analyzed renown creators even around her time for their potential sexuality, however when it came to a woman like Artemisia, no one began to question it. She was married, of course, but in that time unless a woman was married they were not able to do as much as they desired. Marriage was just a dowery handed to the father of the daughter, more money in his pocket. She had kids, but many women had kids who might not have wanted them. There are many possibilities surrounding her personal relations, yet no one have analyzed the possiblity of a alternitive seuxality within her.

What brings this question to my foremind is that Artemisia herself, though it was forbidden for women to draw or paint the male nude, created works of women in heroic and statuesque manners. She was framed as a ‘feminist’ in the way she treated biblical stories of women, depicting them not just as nameless people who typically didn’t do much, or if they did were down played for their actions. Not only did she turn women from meger background characters to the forefront, she also began depicting herself as women within historical stories, such as in the featured image, Lucretia, a woman who was raped and then killed herself in order to restore her family’s pride.

Though I, myself, cannot declare straightforward that since Artemisia depicted and painted women with direct concentration of the contours of their bodies or attention to detail of her figure, call her to have an alternative sexuality. Such as Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit were unable to declare Caravaggio as gay just through his paintings. However the absence of the question itself is what I am concerned about. How art historians have written and questioned the sexuality of multitudes of men throughout the early centuries, yet I have yet to encounter an accredited article about an alternative sexuality when speaking of Baroque or Renaissance women.

Featured Image: Lucretia, Artemisia Gentileschi, 1643


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