Feb 022019

On this date in 1585, fraternal twins, Hamnet and Judith, born to William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, were baptized. Their date of birth (as with Shakespeare), is not recorded. They were probably born in the same house where their father was born, and certainly raised there. They were probably named after Hamnet Sadler, a baker, who witnessed Shakespeare’s will, and his wife, Judith. According to the record of Sadler’s baptism on 23rd March 1560 in the Register of Solihull he was christened Hamlette Sadler, which has caused some idle speculation among literary historians concerning Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, and his son’s name – the kind of musing that occupies doctoral candidates with nothing better to do with their time.

By the time the twins were four, their father was already a London playwright and, as his popularity grew, he was probably not regularly at home in Stratford with his family. Hamnet may have completed Lower School, which would have been normal, before his death at the age of eleven (possibly from the bubonic plague). He was buried in Stratford on 11th August 1596. At that time in England about a third of all children died before age 10.

Judith Shakespeare was almost certainly illiterate. In 1611, she witnessed the deed of sale of a house for £131 to William Mountford, a wheelwright of Stratford, from Elizabeth Quiney, her future mother-in-law, and Elizabeth’s eldest son Adrian. Judith signed twice with a mark instead of her name. On 10th February 1616, Judith Shakespeare married Thomas Quiney, a vintner of Stratford, in Holy Trinity Church. The assistant vicar, Richard Watts, who later married Quiney’s sister Mary, probably officiated. The wedding took place during the pre-Lenten season of Shrovetide, which was not a lawful time for marriages. In 1616, the period in which marriages were banned without dispensation from the church, including Ash Wednesday and Lent, started on 23rd January, Septuagesima Sunday and ended on 7th April, the Sunday after Easter. Hence the marriage required a special license issued by the Bishop of Worcester, which the couple had failed to obtain. Presumably they had posted the required banns in church, but this was not considered sufficient. The infraction was a minor one apparently caused by the minister, as three other couples were also wed that February. Quiney was nevertheless summoned by Walter Nixon to appear before the Consistory court in Worcester. (This same Walter Nixon was later involved in a Star Chamber case and was found guilty of forging signatures and taking bribes). Quiney failed to appear by the required date. The register recorded the judgement, which was excommunication, on or about 12th March 1616. It is unknown if Judith was also excommunicated, but in any case the punishment did not last long. In November of the same year they were back in church for the baptism of their firstborn child.

The marriage did not begin well. Quiney had recently got another woman pregnant, Margaret Wheeler, who died in childbirth along with her child. Both were buried on 15th March 1616. On 26th March, Quiney appeared before the Bawdy Court, which dealt, among other things, with “whoredom and uncleanliness.” Confessing in open court to “carnal copulation” with Margaret Wheeler, he submitted himself for correction and was sentenced to open penance in a white sheet (according to custom) before the Congregation on three Sundays. He also had to admit to his crime, this time wearing ordinary clothes, before the Minister of Bishopton in Warwickshire. The first part of the sentence was remitted, essentially letting him off with a five-shilling fine to be given to the parish’s poor. As Bishopton had no church, but only a chapel, he was spared any public humiliation.

Where the Quineys lived after their marriage is unknown: but Judith owned her father’s cottage on Chapel Lane, Stratford; while Thomas had held, since 1611, the lease on a tavern called “Atwood’s” on High Street. The cottage later passed from Judith to her sister as part of the settlement in their father’s will. In July 1616 Thomas swapped houses with his brother-in-law, William Chandler, moving his vintner’s shop to the upper half of a house at the corner of High Street and Bridge Street. This house was known as “The Cage” and is the house traditionally associated with Judith Quiney. In the 20th century The Cage was for a time a Wimpy Bar before being turned into the Stratford Information Office.

The Cage provides further insight into why Shakespeare would not have trusted Judith’s husband. Around 1630 Quiney tried to sell the lease on the house but was prevented by his kin. In 1633, to protect the interests of Judith and the children, the lease was signed over to the trust of John Hall, Susanna Shakespeare’s husband (Judith’s brother-in-law), Thomas Nash, the husband of Judith’s niece, and Richard Watts, vicar of nearby Harbury, who was Quiney’s brother-in-law and who had officiated at Thomas and Judith’s wedding. Eventually, in November 1652, the lease to The Cage ended up in the hands of Thomas’ eldest brother, Richard Quiney, a grocer in London.

The inauspicious beginnings of Judith’s marriage, in spite of her husband and his family being otherwise unexceptional, has led to speculation that this was the cause for William Shakespeare’s hastily altered last will and testament. He first summoned his lawyer, Francis Collins, in January 1616. On 25 March he made further alterations, probably because he was dying and because of his concerns about Quiney. In the first bequest of the will there had been a provision “vnto my sonne in L[aw]”; but “sonne in L[aw]” was then struck out, with Judith’s name inserted in its stead. To this daughter he bequeathed £100 (equivalent to £18,439 in 2018) “in discharge of her marriage porcion”; another £50 (£9,220 in 2018) if she were to relinquish the Chapel Lane cottage; and, if she or any of her children were still alive at the end of three years following the date of the will, a further £150 (£27,659 in 2018), of which she was to receive the interest but not the principal. This money was explicitly denied to Thomas Quiney unless he were to bestow on Judith lands of equal value. In a separate bequest, Judith was given “my broad silver gilt bole.”

Finally, for the bulk of his estate, which included his main house, New Place, his two houses on Henley Street and various lands in and around Stratford, Shakespeare had set up an entail. His estate was bequeathed, in descending order of choice, to the following: 1) his daughter, Susanna Hall; 2) upon Susanna’s death, “to the first sonne of her bodie lawfullie yssueing & to the heires Males of the bodie of the saied first Sonne lawfullie yssueing”; 3) to Susanna’s second son and his male heirs; 4) to Susanna’s third son and his male heirs; 5) to Susanna’s “ffourth … ffyfth sixte & Seaventh sonnes” and their male heirs; 6) to Elizabeth Hall, Susanna and John Hall’s firstborn, and her male heirs; 7) to Judith and her male heirs; or 8) to whatever heirs the law would normally recognize. This elaborate entail is usually taken to indicate that Thomas Quiney was not to be entrusted with Shakespeare’s inheritance, although some have speculated that it might simply indicate that Susanna was the favored child.

Judith and Thomas Quiney had three children:

Shakespeare (baptized 23 November 1616– buried 8 May 1617)

Richard (baptized 9 February 1618 – buried 6 February 1639)

Thomas (baptized 23 January 1620 – buried 28 January 1639)

Shakespeare was named for his grandfather. Richard’s name was common among the Quineys: his paternal grandfather and an uncle were named Richard.

Shakespeare Quiney died at six months of age. Richard and Thomas Quiney were buried within one month of each other, 21 and 19 years old respectively. The deaths of all of Judith’s children resulted in new legal consequences. The entail on her father’s inheritance led Susanna, along with her daughter and son-in-law, to make a settlement using a rather elaborate legal device for the inheritance of her own branch of the family. Legal wrangling continued for another thirteen years, until 1652.

Judith Quiney died before 9th February 1662 (the day of her burial and a week after her 77th birthday). She outlived her last surviving child by 23 years. She was buried in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church, but the exact location of her grave is unknown. Of her husband, the records show little of his later years. It has been speculated that he may have died in 1662 or 1663, when the parish burial records are incomplete, or that he may have left Stratford-upon-Avon.

In The Merry Wives of Windsor Act 1, Scene 1 we have: “Wife, bid these gentlemen welcome. Come, we have a hot venison pasty to dinner: come, gentlemen . . .” which gives an idea for a recipe. Sadly, modern attempts at recreating an Elizabethan venison pasty or pie filling do not take into account the Tudor proclivity for using sweet spices and fruit in with meat, so let’s start here with Hannah Wolley who is a later than Shakespeare’s time, but the ideas are still Tudor in style:

To rost a Haunch or a Shoulder of Venison, or a Chine of Mutton

Take either of these, and lard it with Lard, and stick it thick with Rosemary, then rost it with a quick fire, but do not lay it too near; baste it with sweet butter: then take half a Pint of Claret wine, a little beaten Cinamon and Ginger, and as much sugar as will sweeten it, five or six whole Cloves, a little grated bread, and when it is boiled enough, put in a little Sweet butter, a little Vinegar, and a very little Salt, when your meat is rosted, serve it in with Sauce, and strew salt about your Dish.

My idea would be to start with ground or finely chopped venison. Brown it in a little oil with some chopped onions and chopped bacon, then add red wine and beef stock plus rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and simmer for several hours. You could also add red currants or pitted prunes. When the sauce has reduced, add breadcrumbs to thicken. Line a deep pastry dish with hot water pastry, fill with the meat mixture, cover with a pastry lid, and bake until golden. Could be served hot or cold.

Jul 142015


Today is the birthday (1862) of Gustav Klimt, an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d’art. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism. In addition to his figurative works, which include allegories and portraits, he painted landscapes. Among the artists of the Vienna Secession, Klimt was the most influenced by Japanese art and its methods. In the 1960s and ‘70s several of his paintings from his “Golden Phase”, including The Kiss and Judith I, were popular as posters (I had several in my student rooms). They are instantly recognizable.


Early in his artistic career, he was a successful painter of architectural decorations in a conventional manner. As he developed a more personal style, his work was the subject of controversy that exploded when the paintings he completed around 1900 for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna were criticized as pornographic. He subsequently accepted no more public commissions.


Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna in Austria-Hungary His mother, Anna Klimt (née Finster), had an unrealized ambition to be a musical performer. His father, Ernst Klimt the Elder, formerly from Bohemia, was a gold engraver. He lived in poverty while attending the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule), where he studied architectural painting until 1883. He revered Vienna’s foremost history painter of the time, Hans Makart, and readily accepted the principles of a conservatory training so that his early work may be classified as academic. In 1877 his brother, Ernst, who, like his father, would become an engraver, also enrolled in the school. The two brothers and their friend, Franz Matsch, began working together and by 1880 they had received numerous commissions as a team that they called the “Company of Artists”. They also helped their teacher in painting murals in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Klimt began his professional career painting interior murals and ceilings in large public buildings on the Ringstraße, including a successful series of “Allegories and Emblems”.


In 1888 Klimt received the Golden Order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria for his contributions to murals painted in the Burgtheater in Vienna. He also became an honorary member of the University of Munich and the University of Vienna. In 1892 Klimt’s father and brother Ernst both died, and he had to assume financial responsibility for their families. The tragedies also affected his artistic vision and soon he moved towards a new personal style. Characteristic of his style at the end of the 19th century is the inclusion of nuda veritas (nude truth) as a symbolic figure in some of his works, including Ancient Greece and Egypt (1891), Pallas Athene (1898) and Nuda Veritas (1899). In the early 1890s Klimt met Emilie Louise Flöge (a sister of his sister-in-law) who was to be his companion until the end of his life. His painting, The Kiss (1907–08), is thought to be an image of them as lovers. He designed many costumes she created and modeled in his works. During this period Klimt fathered at least fourteen children.


Klimt became one of the founding members and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) in 1897, and also co-founder of the group’s magazine, Ver Sacrum (“Sacred Spring”). He remained with the Secession until 1908. The goals of the group were to provide exhibitions for unconventional young artists, to bring the works of the best foreign artists to Vienna, and to publish its own magazine to showcase the work of members. The group declared no manifesto and did not set out to encourage any particular style—Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists all coexisted. The government supported their efforts and gave them a lease on public land to erect an exhibition hall. The group’s symbol was Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of just causes, wisdom, and the arts—of whom Klimt painted his radical version in 1898.


In 1894, Klimt was commissioned to create three paintings to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna. Not completed until the turn of the century, his three paintings, Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence were criticized for their radical themes and material, and were called “pornographic”. Klimt had transformed traditional allegory and symbolism into a new language that was more overtly sexual and hence more disturbing to some.The public outcry came from all quarters—political, aesthetic and religious. As a result, the paintings were not displayed on the ceiling of the Great Hall. All three paintings were destroyed by retreating SS forces in May 1945.  Although his work was publicly decried, the Nazis stole a large number of his paintings whose ownership since the 1990s has been in dispute.


His Nuda Veritas (1899) defined his bid to further shake up the establishment. The starkly naked red-headed woman holds the mirror of truth, while above her is a quotation by Friedrich Schiller in stylized lettering, “If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please only a few. To please many is bad.”

In 1902, Klimt finished the Beethoven Frieze for the Fourteenth Vienna Secessionist exhibition, which was intended to be a celebration of the composer and featured a monumental polychrome sculpture by Max Klinger. Intended for the exhibition only, the frieze was painted directly on the walls with light materials. After the exhibition the painting was preserved, although it was not displayed again until 1986. The face on the Beethoven portrait resembled the composer and Vienna Court Opera director Gustav Mahler.


During this period Klimt did not confine himself to public commissions. Beginning in the late 1890s he took annual summer holidays with the Flöge family on the shores of Attersee and painted many of his landscapes there. These landscapes constitute the only genre aside from figure painting that seriously interested Klimt. In recognition of his intensity, the locals called him Waldschrat (“Forest demon”).

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Klimt’s ‘Golden Phase’ was marked by positive critical reaction and financial success. Many of his paintings from this period include gold leaf. Klimt had previously used gold in his Pallas Athene (1898) and Judith I (1901), although the works most popularly associated with this period are the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) and The Kiss (1907–08).

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Klimt traveled little, but trips to Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics, most likely inspired his gold technique and his Byzantine imagery. In 1904, he collaborated with other artists on the lavish Palais Stoclet, the home of a wealthy Belgian industrialist that was one of the grandest monuments of the Art Nouveau age. Klimt’s contributions to the dining room, including both Fulfillment and Expectation, were some of his finest decorative works, and as he publicly stated, “probably the ultimate stage of my development of ornament.”

In 1905, Klimt created a painted portrait of Margarete Wittgenstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s sister, on the occasion of her marriage. Then, between 1907 and 1909, Klimt painted five canvases of society women wrapped in fur. His apparent love of costume is expressed in the many photographs of Flöge modeling clothing he had designed.


As he worked and relaxed in his home, Klimt normally wore sandals and a long robe with no underwear. His simple life was somewhat cloistered, devoted to his art, family, and little else except the Secessionist Movement. He avoided café society and seldom socialized with other artists. Klimt’s fame usually brought patrons to his door and he could afford to be highly selective. His painting method was very deliberate and painstaking at times and he required lengthy sittings by his subjects. Although very active sexually, he kept his affairs discreet and he avoided personal scandal.

Klimt wrote little about his vision or his methods. He wrote mostly postcards to Flöge and kept no diary. In a rare piece called “Commentary on a non-existent self-portrait”, he states “I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women… There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night… Who ever wants to know something about me… ought to look carefully at my pictures.”


Because Vienna was a major center of the arts in the 18th and 19th centuries, I have had cause to showcase Viennese dishes on many occasions. For Klimt I have chosen Tafelspitz, boiled beef, which is very popular in Austria even though it is really quite prosaic in some ways. It was the favorite of emperor Franz-Josef. The rudiments are to take a good piece of stewing beef, usually top round, place it in a large pot of beef or veal stock, bring slowly to a gentle simmer, skim periodically, and let cook (partially covered) for 2 to 3 hours until the meat is very tender. If you like you can add potatoes and leeks to the pot in the last 45 minutes to serve as an accompaniment. Otherwise, Tafelspitz is served with horseradish and apple sauce (sometimes sour cream). Without them this is just another boiled beef dish: they make it.

Jul 082014


Today is the birthday (1593) of Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio. In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.

She painted many images of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible—victims, suicides, warriors—and made it her specialty to paint the Judith story. Her best-known work is Judith Slaying Holofermes (a common medieval and baroque subject in art). That she was a woman painting in the 17th century and that she was raped and participated in prosecuting the rapist, long overshadowed her achievements as an artist. For many years she was seen as a curiosity. Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and skilled painters of her generation.

Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome, the eldest child of the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi. Gentileschi was introduced to painting in her father’s workshop, showing much more talent than her brothers, who worked alongside her. She learned drawing, how to mix color, and how to paint. Since her father’s style took inspiration from Caravaggio during that period, her style was just as heavily influenced in turn. Her approach to subject matter was different from her father’s, however, as her paintings are highly naturalistic, whereas Orazio’s are idealized. Orazio was a great encouragement to his daughter since, during the 17th century, women were commonly considered lacking the intelligence for professional work. Gentileschi had to resist the traditional norms and psychological pressures of her time, brought on, in part, by the jealousy of contemporaries over her obvious abilities. By doing so, she gained great respect and recognition for her work.


The first work of the seventeen-year-old Gentileschi was the Susanna e i Vecchioni (Susanna and the Elders) (1610). At the time some, influenced by the prevailing misconceptions, suspected that she was helped by her father. The painting shows how Gentileschi assimilated the realism of Caravaggio without being indifferent to the style of the Bologna school, which had Annibale Carracci among its major artists. It is one of the few paintings on the theme of Susanna showing the sexual accosting by the two Elders as a traumatic event.

In 1611, her father was working with Agostino Tassi to decorate the vaults of Casino della Rose inside the Pallavicini Rospigliosi Palace in Rome, so Orazio hired the painter to tutor his daughter privately. During this tutelage, Tassi raped Gentileschi. Another man, Cosimo Quorlis had helped Tassi with the rape. After the initial rape, Gentileschi continued to have sexual relations with Tassi, with the expectation that they were going to be married and with the hope to restore her dignity and her future. Tassi reneged on his promise to marry Gentileschi. Nine months after the rape, after he learned that Gentileschi and Tassi were not going to be married, Orazio pressed charges against Tassi. Orazio also claimed that Tassi stole a painting of Judith from the Gentileschi household. The major issue of this trial was the fact that Tassi had taken Gentileschi’s virginity. If Gentileschi had not been a virgin before Tassi raped her, the Gentileschis would not have been able to press charges. During the ensuing seven-month trial, it was discovered that Tassi had planned to murder his wife, had enjoined in adultery with his sister-in-law, and planned to steal some of Orazio’s paintings. During the trial, Gentileschi was subjected to a gynecological examination and being tortured using thumbscrews to verify her testimony. At the end of the trial Tassi was sentenced to imprisonment for one year, although he never served the time. The trial influenced the feminist view of Gentileschi in general during the late twentieth century.

Gentileschi was surrounded mainly by the presence of males since the loss of her mother at age 12. When Gentileschi was 17, Orazio rented the upstairs apartment of their home to a female tenant, Tuzia. Gentileschi befriended Tuzia; however, Tuzia allowed Agostino Tassi and Cosimo Quorlis to accompany Gentileschi in Artemsia’s home on multiple occasions. The day the rape occurred, Gentileschi cried for the help of Tuzia, but Tuzia simply ignored Gentileschi and pretended she knew nothing of what happened. Gentileschi felt betrayed by Tuzia, and because Tuzia was the only female figure in her life, Gentileschi’s works contained a strong sense of solidarity and unity between women.


The painting, Giuditta che decapita Oloferne (Judith beheading Holofernes) (1612–1613), is striking for the violence portrayed. Compare this with Caravaggio’s depiction of the same scene (below). Gentileschi’s Judith is really going at it, whereas Caravaggio’s looks as if she could barely break the skin from the way she is holding her arms at such a distance, and the blood just gently trickling on the pillow.


A month later, Orazio arranged for his daughter to marry Pierantonio Stiattesi, a modest artist from Florence. Shortly afterward the couple moved to Florence, where Gentileschi received a commission for a painting at Casa Buonarroti. She became a successful court painter, enjoying the patronage of the Medici family and Charles I. It has been proposed that during this period Gentileschi also painted the Madonna col Bambino (The Virgin and Child).

While in Florence, Gentileschi and Pierantonio had a daughter, Prudentia, around 1618; they also had a second daughter some years after Prudentia. It is noteworthy that both daughters were painters, trained by their mother, although nothing is known of their work.

In Florence, Gentileschi enjoyed huge success. She was the first woman accepted into the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing). She maintained good relations with the most respected artists of her time, such as Cristofano Allori, and was able to garner the favors and the protection of influential people, starting with Granduke Cosimo II de’ Medici and especially, of the Granduchess Cristina. She had a good relationship with Galileo Galilei, with whom she corresponded by letter for a long time.


She was esteemed by Michelangelo Buonarroti the younger (nephew of the great Michelangelo): busy with construction of Casa Buonarroti to celebrate his notable relative, he asked Gentileschi to produce a painting to decorate the ceiling of the gallery of paintings. The painting is allegorical, Allegoria dell’Inclinazione, “Allegory of the Inclination (natural talent)”, presented in the form of a nude young woman holding a compass. It is believed that the subject bears a resemblance to Gentileschi. Indeed, in several of her paintings, Gentileschi’s energetic heroines resemble her self-portraits.


Her success and gender fueled many rumors about her private life. For example, some speculate that the case of her rape released her from societal pressures, having created an understanding of why some of her works were filled with defiant and violent women, rather than examining the style of those influencing hers. Notable works from this period include La Conversione della Maddalena (The Conversion of the Magdalene), Self-Portrait as a Lute Player,  and Giuditta con la sua ancella (Judith and her Maidservant). Gentileschi painted a second version of Giuditta che decapita Oloferne (Judith beheading Holofernes), this one larger than the Naples version. Despite her success, financial excesses borne by her for her husband led to problems with creditors, and she fell out with her husband. She returned without him to Rome in 1621.


Gentileschi arrived in Rome the same year her father Orazio departed for Genoa. While there is not enough evidence for this, some believe that Gentileschi followed her father to Genoa, asserting that this time together would have accentuated the similarity of their styles, making it often difficult to determine which of the two painted certain works. Most of the evidence, however, supports the notion that Gentileschi remained in Rome, trying to find a home and raise her children.

Although the master had been dead over a decade, Caravaggio’s style was still highly influential and converted many painters to following his style (the so-called Caravaggisti), such as Gentileschi’s father Orazio, Carlo Saraceni (who returned to Venice 1620), Bartolomeo Manfredi, and Simon Vouet. Painting styles in Rome during the early seventeenth century were diverse, however, demonstrating a more classic manner of the Bolognese disciples of the Carracci and the baroque style of Pietro da Cortona.

It appears that Gentileschi also was associated the Academy of the Desiosi. She was celebrated with a portrait carrying the inscription “Pincturare miraculum invidendum facilius quam imitandum”. During the same period she became friends with Cassiano dal Pozzo, a humanist and a collector and lover of arts.

Despite her artistic reputation, her strong personality, and her numerous good relationships, however, Rome was not so lucrative as she hoped. Her style, tone of defiance, and strength relaxed. She painted less intense works. For instance, her second version of Susanna and the Elders (1622) The appreciation of her art was narrowed down to portraits and to her ability with biblical heroines. She did not receive any of the lucrative commissions for altarpieces. The absence of sufficient documentation makes it difficult to follow Gentileschi’s movements in this period. It is certain that between 1627 and as late as 1630, she moved to Venice, perhaps in search of richer commissions. Evidence for this is that verses and letters were composed in appreciation of her and her works in Venice.


Although it is sometimes difficult to date her paintings, it is possible to assign certain works by her to these years, the Ritratto di gonfaloniere (Portrait of Gonfaloniere), today in Bologna (a rare example of her capacity as portrait painter) and the Giuditta con la sua ancella, (Judith and her Maidservervant). The latter painting is notable for her mastery of chiaroscuro and tenebrism (the effects of extreme lights and darks), techniques for which Gerrit van Honthorst, Trophime Bigot, and many others in Rome were famous. Her Venere Dormiente (The Sleeping Venus), and her Ester ed Assuero (Esther and Ahasuerus)  are testimony to her assimilation of the lessons of Venetian luminism.

In 1630 Gentileschi moved to Naples, a city rich with workshops and art lovers, in search of new and more lucrative job opportunities. Many other artists, including Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci, and Simon Vouet had stayed in Naples for some time in their lives. At that time, Jusepe de Ribera, Massimo Stanzione, and Domenichino were working there and later, Giovanni Lanfranco and many others would flock to the city. The Neapolitan debut of Gentileschi is represented by the Annunciation in the Capodimonte Museum. She remained in Naples for the remainder of her career with the exceptions of a brief trip to London and some other journeys.

Naples was for Gentileschi a kind of second homeland where she took care of her family (both of her daughters were married in Naples). On Saturday 18 March 1634 the traveler Bullen Reymes records in his diary visiting Gentileschi and one of her daughters (‘who also paints’) with a group of fellow-Englishmen. She received letters of appreciation, being in good relations with the viceroy, the Duke of Alcalá, and started relations with many renowned artists, among them Massimo Stanzione, with whom, the eighteenth-century writer Bernardo de’ Dominici reports, she started an artistic collaboration based on a real friendship and artistic similarities.


In Naples for the first time Gentileschi started working on paintings in a cathedral, dedicated to San Gennaro nell’anfiteatro di Pozzuoli (Saint Januarius in the amphitheater of Pozzuoli) in Pozzuoli. During her first Neapolitan period she painted Nascita di San Giovanni Battista (Birth of Saint John the Baptist), and Corisca e il satiro (Corisca and the satyr). In these paintings Gentileschi again demonstrates her ability to adapt to the novelties of the period and handle different subjects, instead of the usual Judith, Susanna, Bathsheba, and Penitent Magdalenes, for which she already was known.

In 1638 Gentileschi joined her father in London at the court of Charles I of England, where Orazio became court painter and received the important job of decorating a ceiling (allegory of Trionfo della pace e delle Arti (Triumph of the peace and the Arts) in the Casa delle Delizie of Queen Henrietta Maria of France in Greenwich). Father and daughter were working together once again, although helping her father probably was not her only reason for travelling to London: Charles I had convoked her in his court, and it was not possible to refuse. Charles I was a fanatical collector, willing to ruin public finances to follow his artistic wishes. The fame of Gentileschi probably intrigued him, and it is not a coincidence that his collection included a painting of great suggestion, the Autoritratto in veste di Pittura (“Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting”), which is the lead image of this article.

Orazio died suddenly in 1639. Gentileschi had her own commissions to fulfill after her father’s death, although there are no known works assignable with certainty to this period. It is known that Gentileschi had already left England by 1642, when the civil war was just starting. Nothing much is known about her subsequent movements. Historians know that in 1649 she was in Naples again, corresponding with Don Antonio Ruffo of Sicily, who became her mentor during this second Neapolitan period. The last known letter to her mentor is dated 1650 and makes clear that she still was fully active.


As Gentileschi grew older, her work is sometimes described as more graceful and “feminine.” I’m not really comfortable with such stereotypic labels, but it is true that the brutality and forcefulness of her earlier work was muted now. Works in this period include, Susanna e i vecchioni (Susanna and the elders), Madonna e Bambino con rosario (Virgin and Child with a Rosary), David and Bathsheba.


Gentileschi was once thought to have died in 1652/1653, however, recent evidence has shown that she was still accepting commissions in 1654—although increasingly dependent upon her assistant, Onofrio Palumbo. It might be speculated that she died in the devastating plague that swept Naples in 1656 and virtually wiped out an entire generation of Neapolitan artists.

For today’s recipe I have chosen a 17th century Florentine recipe for cappelletti, cappelleti alla cortigiana (courtesan’s cappelleti). “Cappelletti” means “little caps” referring to the shape of the pasta. Traditionally they are served as cappelletti in brodo, that is, in rich broth, one of my favorites. You will find my standard recipe for pasta under the HINTS tab. When I make filled pasta I like to make a big batch and freeze most. To do this, place the pasta on metal trays in the freezer making sure they do not touch. When they are frozen place them in zip top bags. This way they stay separate while frozen.


Cappelletti alla Cortigiana


1 batch of fresh pasta
3 ½ oz/100g pork belly
½ capon breast
7 oz/200g soft Italian cheese (e.g. ricotta)
1 ¾ oz/50g matured hard Italian cheese (e.g. Pecorino)
2 eggs
ground nutmeg
ground ginger
fresh ground black pepper


Simmer the pork belly and capon breast in separate pots in light broth until tender. Remove both meats and chop then very fine. Mix all together thoroughly with the cheeses, eggs, nutmeg, ginger, pepper and salt to taste. Start off with very little of the spices and add until their flavor comes through but is not overwhelming.

Roll the pasta using a pasta machine into long strips as thin as possible (usually the second to finest setting). Cut the strips into 1 ½” by 1 ½” (4cm by 4cm) squares. Dab about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each square. Lightly dampen the inner edges with water and fold over the square diagonally to form a triangle. Press the edges to seal. Take the base corners of the triangle and pull them together. Overlap them slightly and press them together to form the “cap.”

Bring the capon broth to a gentle boil. Add a few threads of saffron, and then the cappelletti. Because this is fresh pasta they will cook in just a few minutes. Be very vigilant to be sure the pasta remains al dente.

Serve in the broth with grated hard cheese and a sprinkling of nutmeg or ginger.