Artemisia exhibition at National Gallery: Unseen original court transcript to go on show in rescheduled exhibition

Lizzie Edmonds

A major exhibition exploring the work of pioneering artist Artemisia Gentileschi will go ahead this autumn — with the addition of a document never publicly displayed before.

Artemisia was originally scheduled to open at the National Gallery on April 4 but was postponed due to lockdown.

Today, the gallery announced that the exhibition — the UK’s first show dedicated solely to the Italian baroque painter — will open on October 3 and run until January 24.

As well as highlights such as her Self-portrait As The Allegory of Painting, on loan from the Royal Collection, the show will now also feature an original transcript from the 1612 trial where the artist Agostino Tassi was charged with “deflowering” Gentileschi - an event which came to overshadow her career for decades.

The document, which has never been displayed publicly before, is on loan from the Archivio di Stato, Rome, and details a key moment in the trial where Gentileschi was tortured to test the truth of her allegations.

Gentileschi’s career spanned more than 40 years. At a time when women artists were not often accepted, she gained fame and admiration across Europe. She was the daughter of Tuscan artist Orazio Gentileschi and the first woman to gain membership to the artists’ academy in Florence.

In 1611, artist Tassi was hired to tutor Gentileschi by her father. He attempted to woo his student with false promises of marriage and raped her, forcing Gentileschi to face her attacker during a seven-month trial.

During the trial, officials asked the artist if she was willing to confirm her statement under “judicial torture”. The artist replied: “Yes sir I am ready to confirm my testimony again under torture and wherever necessary.”

The torture chosen was the sibille - cords looped around the fingers and slowly tightened. During her ordeal, Gentileschi uttered the now famous words: “È vero è vero è vero” - “It is true, it is true, it is true.”

The transcript will be displayed with its pages open at Monday 14 May 1612, when she was asked to participate in the torture.

Preparations for the exhibition are now under way at the National Gallery, which opened to the public for the first time in over 100 days last week.

Curator Letizia Treves said: “Artemisia was a survivor. She overcame rape, torture, humiliation and prejudice to become one of the most successful artists of her time. I was bitterly disappointed when we had to postpone the exhibition but I’m enormously grateful to our lenders for enabling it to go ahead. It’s been a long time coming, but Artemisia will finally get her moment in the spotlight and I can’t wait to share her story and paintings with visitors.”

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, said: “I am thrilled that Artemisia will open to the public in October after the coronavirus postponement. It will be a revelation for many to discover her powerful paintings and to get to know her story both from her art and from the biographical documents that will be seen in public for the first time.”