(b. 1593, Roma, d. ca. 1653, Napoli)

Judith Beheading Holofernes (detail)

Oil on canvas
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

Artemisia's powerful style - totally different to that of her father - is seen at its most characteristic in paintings of Judith and Holofernes, a subject she made her own. Her predilection for the bloodthirsty theme has been related to events in her own life. At the age of 19 she was allegedly raped by Agostino Tassi (who was eventually acquitted of the charge) and was tortured during the legal proceedings; thus the fierce intensity with which she depicted a woman decapitating a man has been seen as pictorial 'revenge' for her sufferings.