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Wadsworth Atheneum Acquires an Artemisia Gentileschi Self-Portrait

March 27, 2014
Lot 36. Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-1654 Naples)  Self-Portrait as a Lute Player  oil on canvas  30½ x 28¼ in. (77.5 x 71.8 cm.)  Estimate: $3-5 million.

Lot 36. Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-1654 Naples)
Self-Portrait as a Lute Player
oil on canvas
30½ x 28¼ in. (77.5 x 71.8 cm.)
Estimate: $3-5 million. Bidding on this lot stopped at $2.0 million and it failed to sell.

One of the star paintings at Christie’s Old Master sales in New York this past January was this Artemisia Gentileschi self-portrait done when the artist was about 25. It carried an aggressive $3-5 million estimate and went unsold. Now, the New York Times reports, the painting, “from estate of Myron Kunin, a Minneapolis philanthropist, collector and founder of the hair salon chain Regis Corp., who died in November at the age of 85”  has been acquired by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT, joining a work by her father, Orazio, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes (below).

The Wadsworth had not bid on the painting because the estimate was too high, according to the article:

“We didn’t bid on it at auction because it was well beyond our means,” said Susan L. Talbott, director of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. But as frequently happens, when a painting doesn’t sell at auction, experts try to sell it privately at a lower price. Knowing the Wadsworth has one of the top collections of Baroque art in the country, Nicholas Hall, co-chairman of old master and 19th-century art at Christie’s, called that museum to see if it would be interested in buying the painting.

“We were bowled over by it,” Ms. Talbott said. “We have a great masterpiece by Artemisia’s father, Orazio Gentileschi, but none by her, so this was a real gap. And that it was a self-portrait also added to the importance of the story.”

While Ms. Talbott declined to say what the museum paid for the painting, she did hint that it was purchased for well under the estimate, bought with funds from a recent bequest from the Charles H. Schwartz Fund for European art.

“Self-Portrait as a Lute Player” will go on view as part of the reopening of the Wadsworth’s Morgan Memorial Building in 2015.

For some background on the painting, the Christie’s sale catalogue include the following:

Lost to notice until its discovery in a private European collection in 1998, this beautiful Self-Portrait as a Lute Player is by Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the leading painters of the Baroque age and among the boldest and most powerfully expressive woman painters in history. Born in Rome, Artemisia studied with her father, the prominent artist Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639), who introduced her to the dramatic realism of Caravaggio and the practice of painting from live models. In 1611, when she was 17, she was sexually assaulted by her father’s business associate and fellow artist Agostino Tassi, a crime against the family’s honor. When Tassi reneged on his promise to marry Artemisia, Orazio brought charges against him, and at the end of a protracted trial, Tassi was convicted and sentenced to a 5-year banishment from Rome. To minimize the scandal which the trial had engendered, Orazio arranged for Artemisia to marry the minor Florentine painter, Pierantonio Stiattesi, and at the end of 1612, the couple moved to Florence, where they would live until 1620.

 

Orazio Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, 1621-24, oil on canvas, 53 3/4 x 62 5/8 in., The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1949.52

Orazio Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes, 1621-24, oil on canvas, 53 3/4 x 62 5/8 in., The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1949.52

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