Artemisia’s Hand!

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Hand: Manual telegraphy, really?

Hande will be our guide for this article by Mary Garrard. Just a few words, a few questions to begin the dialogue…..Art history began as a discipline largely governed by connoisseurship and leading that charge was Morelli! He believed that an artist could change his or her style a great deal however, that artist would not alter his or her earlobes, or the way hands were drawn. This Morellian method engendered a great deal of scrutiny of paintings for earlobe consistency and hands that did not break the mold, as it were. Many art historians still rely on connoisseurship but have added other methodologies to temper this approach to an artist’s style. I am eager to hear your thoughts about this article, not only because of the feminist underpinnings of her thesis, but also because of the visual tactics she employs.

1. What was the exception to the beautiful woman = beautiful hands formula in paintings by male artists?
2. How does the author explain the eroticized nature of the Lute Player newly attributed to Artemisia?
3. Do you see any possible dangers to a strict adherence to the Morellian method for artistic attributions?
4. What is Artemisia’s approach to rendering hands in her paintings of women according to the author?
5. Do you agree with Garrard’s interpretation of the LeMans Allegory of Painting?
6. Do you feel that the “homey realism” of Artemisia’s Cleopatra subverts the eroticism of the work?
7. What did hands connote during the Renaissance?
8. How did the contemporary reception of Artemisia and Sirani differ? Has history treated Sirani differently?
9. Do you believe that we can speak confidently about the feminist sensibilities that underlie Artemisia’s work?

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3 responses

  1. Here are Hande’s questions!!!
    1) How does Orazio’s treatment of women’s hands differ from Artemisia’s?
    2)How does the representation of hands signify the class of the women during the Roman Caravaggioesque realism?
    3) Why the writer suggests that we need to concentrate on the treatment of hands rather than faces to identify the painter?

    4)Why the décolletage of the Women Playing Lute does not fit Artemisia’s style?
    5)The prominence of female fists in Artemisia’s oeuvre challenges what kind of a cultural understanding?
    6)Why does Artemisia’s choice of depicting Corisca and the Satyr shows her feminist sensibility?”

  2. Hande’s question 1—The hands painted by Artemesia and Orazio, respectively, differ in how they are ascribed agility and agency. Artemesia’s hands exert force—the pressure of a grip, the strain of a pull. Her female figures exert a self-assured power through their hands that is absent in Orazio’s renderings of females with pale, delicate, unarticulated hands.

    I found Garrand’s analysis of this difference as “human” and “feminine” inlightenting with regard to the social standarsd with which we approach both representations of women as well as women themselves. Can it actually be said that in favoring the strong grip Artemesia actually reject the “feminine,” or can we rad her hands as a proto-Beauvoirian analysis?

  3. Orazio tends to paint women’s hands as smaller and more dainty, while Artemesia paints them much larger, less “beautiful” and ready for action. Since men were actors in society, they must have hands that make them capable to do things, while for women they need not be depicted in this way. They tend to be shown not in action, just present. The difference in approaches can be seen in the father and daughter’s respective female lute player portraits. Orazio’s has small hands, and they are in a position that would make playing the lute rather difficult. While in Artemesia’s version, the woman’s knuckles are very present, and she is clearly in action playing the lute.
    I find it interesting that in the Anguissola article, Garrard argued that Anguissola painted herself in many of her portraits, even when she was not a figure in the painting, and in this article she is concerned people assume too many of Artemesia’s paintings are self portraits. Different artists, subjects and time periods of course, but I still find it amusing.

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