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Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

You will meet a tall handsome stranger… on the Bowery


Think Bowery and it is either the New Museum or the Bowery Mission that likely springs to mind. But right now it is also the place to view something whose rarity and finesse belies both associations: a newly discovered portrait by the most famous female old “master”, Artemisia Gentileschi.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Portrait of an Unidentified Man, 1630-1635.  Courtesy of Sperone, Westwater

Artemisia Gentileschi, Portrait of an Unidentified Man, 1630-1635. Courtesy of Sperone, Westwater

Her portrait of an unidentified, fashionable young nobleman, dated to the 1630s, is on view as part of a display of a dozen or so Italian paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries on the fourth floor of Sperone Westwater. This is the first time pre-modern art has been show in this gallery’s new, Norman Foster-designed premises, where paintings by the likes of Francesco Guardi and Luca Giordano share pristine white wall space with works dating from the 1960s, on the lower floors, by Heinz Mack, the veteran German artist and member of the ZERO group. The Italian Paintings are presented at Sperone by the London and Milan-based dealers Robilant & Voena.

The new Artemesia was acquired under a different attribution. During restoration the monogram AG emerged in the trinkets on the young man’s chest, and after lengthy analysis experts are agreed now on the portrait being from her hand. It is to be included in a large public exhibition of her work in Milan later this spring. This tall handsome painting is likely from the period just after she gained independence from her father, Orazio’s workshop.

Artemesia is best known for her powerful Baroque interpretations of beheading scenes such as Judith and Holofernes, a theme she returned to often. Besides being one of very few women artists of note before the modern era, she also figures in the annals of feminist art history thanks to the transcript of a lengthy rape trial in which she was the plaintiff.

Until February 19 at Sperone Westwater,  257 Bowery, between Houston and Stanton streets, 212 999 7337


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