An impassioned artist, Artemisia was born in Rome at the end of the cinquecento. Eldest daughter of the painter Orazio Gentileschi, Artemisia became one of the most accomplished followers of Caravaggio. She had been exposed to art at an early age and it was her father who provided and supported her artistic development. When further instruction was required for the study of perspective, a private tutor, Agostino Tassi was hired.
Although her painting of Susanna and The Elders (1610) displays a decidedly feminine point of view, Artemisia is best known for her dark scenes of graphic violence. Feminist art historians have pointed out that perhaps these depictions of violence express violence which had been imposed upon the artist. This connection is linked to the fact that at 19 years of age, Artemisia was allegedly raped by her instructor, Tassi. The trial which resulted was quite sensational and did more harm to Artemisia than to her assailant. She was tortured by thumbscrews in an attempt to verify her allegations but in the end Tassi was eventually acquitted. One month after the trial, Gentileschi married and moved to Florence where she achieved considerable success and produced some of her finest paintings. She received a large commission for a painting at Casa Buonarroti and enjoyed the support of the Medici family. In 1616, she became a member of the Accademia del Disego despite women's lack of acceptance in the formal art institutions. Artemisia returned to Rome in 1620 but relocated to Naples in 1630 where she spent the remainder of her life living in comfort and enjoying the patronage of nobility. While she was mainly known as a portrait painter, it was Artemisia's dramatic history/religious paintings which earned her the reputation of artist extra ordinaire.
An example of Gentileschi's mature work, this painting depicts the artist not only in a self portrait but also as Pittura, the originator of the art of painting.