Sotheby’s Offers Lost Artemisia Gentileschi Masterpiece

Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Magdalene. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

A lost painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, a rare seventeenth-century female artist, will be on sale at Sotheby’s in Paris on June 26.

Previously only documented by a single black-and-white photo dating to the turn of the 20th century, Mary Magdalene In Ecstasy has presumably been in private hands for centuries, and hasn’t been seen by the public in 80 years. Sotheby’s rediscovered the large masterpiece in a collection in the south of France.

An Italian Baroque artist, Gentileschi had an unusually successful career as an artist for a woman of her era. In a time where women were not meant to engage in a profession, Genileschi won commissions across Italy, and achieved international acclaim in Europe. Her Caravaggesque work, however, was largely overshadowed by her rape at the hands of the artist Agostino Tassi, a case which she brought to trial and won. Now, her artwork is back in the spotlight, and rightfully so.

“It is a splendid and superb Artemisia! It is more than just a painting—it is theatre! Almost opera!” said Pierre Etienne, the head of Old Master paintings at Sotheby’s Paris, in a press release. Although the work’s subject is religious in nature, Mary Magdalene’s ecstatic features do call to mind Bernini’s famously orgasmic statue of St. Theresa.

A pre-sale estimate pegs Mary Magdalene In Ecstasy‘s value at €200,000–300,000 ($278,400–417,600).

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