The people of Madrid went out to celebrate the 199th anniversary of the Prado Museum on the Saturday night of last week. As if it were a canvas, on the Velázquez facade of the Villanueva building it was recognized that the museum is full of muses, but empty of women artists. There are only seven paintings signed by them from among the almost 1,700 pieces that are exhibited. The museum publicly acknowledged the lack and launched a slogan to try to disguise historical inequality: "The Prado is of all," could be read on the facade. There were good intentions and fragments of the works of Clara Peeters, Sofonisba Anguissola and Artemisia Gentileschi.
And that was when the Prado stumbled upon its own stone: at the moment of the claim, the only painting of Gentileschi that the art gallery has the good fortune to keep, was still absent in the hall. In The birth of Saint John the Baptist, of 1635, four women attend to the newborn and Zacarias retires to write, while Isabel – sterile until the angel announces to her old husband that she will give birth to a child whom he must call Juan – rests exhausted in the bed after childbirth. Gentileschi, one of the strongest feminist figures of our time and desired in the foreign museum circuit, it has been exhibited in the hall for only two months in 2018. It was previously shown between November 2016 and May 2017. In 2014, six months. Before 2012 it was impossible to meet Artemisia, who has had an intermittent visibility in the Prado.
As reflected in the movements of the painting, collected in the archives of the museum consulted by this newspaper, since the end of 1999 it has only been exhibited in the museum for 26 months. It has been easier to see it abroad, where it has been in view for 31 months. He has traveled to Bonn, New York, Rome, Paris, Milan and Bari. The rest, 171 months, has remained in the shade.
An emergency rescue
However, after the exhibition in Milan, in 2012, the Artemisia fever multiplied and the painter was reborn with impetus. Then more than 150,000 people passed through the Royal Palace of Milan. It was the first retrospective exhibition in which his artistic production was analyzed, with almost fifty unpublished works and documents. This overwhelmed attraction is confirmed by Miguel Falomir, director of the Prado, who assures that, given the shortage of work attributed to it(barely forty, not including those who believe their father Orazio), the piece is claimed by many museums. Until now the museum has resisted to include it in the titular equipment of the Baroque one in room, but this is going to change, according to account Falomir to the COUNTRY.
Since 1999, the table has been without exposing 171 months
This week the Prado has incorporated again The birth of Saint John the Baptist to room 7, the place where it is usually taught when it is not borrowed or hidden. And the management assures to be determined to remove it from the exile of the combs of the warehouse: "We are only going to lend it one more time in the next years. The National Gallery in London is organizing a large retrospective and will travel there in 2020. In the next few months we will set up a room with the complete series, together with the Baptist visions made by Stanzione, "reports Falomir by telephone.
An intimate scene
The birth of Saint John the Baptist It was made to hang in the Buen Retiro Palace, and there it was in 1701, in a series of five paintings, together with those of Maximo Stanzione: The birth of the Baptist announced to Zacarias, Preaching the Baptist in the desert, Degollación of san Juan Bautista Y San Juan Bautista says goodbye to his parents. The painting caught the attention of Roberto Longhi, who highlighted the character of "intimacy at home". The expert considered it "the most beautiful effect of domestic interior of all the Italian sixteenth-century painting". Enough to be among the greatest hits of the Prado collection.
Anna Banti, writer and wife of Longhi, achieved the revaluation of Artemisia by publishing the novel Artemisia, in 1947. In the book, the author analyzes the spectacular painting Judith decapitating Holofernes, to recreate a revenge that ends with the death of an oppressor. Banti draws the painter as a strong, clever and intelligent woman, the archetype of those who rise up against male oppression.
We are only going to lend it one more time in the coming years
Miguel Falomir, director of the Prado Museum
Gentileschi was raped by the painter Agostino Tassi and that oppression is what Banti refers to. In 1612, the father of the painter, who is 18 years old, denounces Tassi. In the trial, Agostino denies everything and defends himself by assuring that Artemisa has relations with other men, implying that she is a woman incapable of distinguishing between a consensual relationship and a rape.
The victim was subjected to a gynecological examination during the process, from which it was concluded that she was not a virgin. Of course, she was raped. Gentileschi said he had only had sexual contact with Tassi and against his will. She also stated that she was forced several times, but to corroborate the validity of her testimony, the painter was tortured by pressing the fingers of her hand with ropes. The pain did not alter his testimony and Tassi was found guilty and sentenced to serve a few months in prison, which did not even reach a year.
The painting that preserves El Prado is enlarged by the lower part and the left side, because, according to the hypothesis of the museum, the painter took advantage of a painting she had already made and it was enlarged to adapt it to the measures indicated in the order. According to Andrés Úbeda, deputy director of the museum, it is a work of Artemisia maturity, when the caravaggismo of her father tempers with delicate classicism and in the turn, her daughter lets herself be impacted by the new aesthetic commandments.