It is about “Allegoria dell’Inclinazione”, roughly “Allegory of the Inclination”, which was painted by Artemisia Gentileschi in 1616.
The artwork depicts a life-size young woman seated with a compass that she holds in both hands. The portrait is believed to represent the artist herself and was originally completely nude. But 70 years after the creation of the painting, she owes the viewer a few painted swirling pieces of fabric.
A work team of conservators in Florence will now restore and also “undress” the censored painting. However, they cannot remove the painted parts without risking damage to the artwork.
Six months of work
Instead, they plan to recreate the original in digital form to display it at an exhibition next fall. The work is carried out with ultraviolet light and X-rays to distinguish Gentileschi’s brushstrokes from those that have been added later. The project runs for six months and museum visitors should be able to follow the work until April 23.
“Through her, we can talk about how important it is to restore art and how important it is to restore women’s history,” says project coordinator Linda Falcone.
Artemisia Gentileschi was known for being able to depict the female figure with great naturalism and for her skill with color. Many of her paintings featured female heroines, often in violent scenes and often nude. Today she is considered one of the greatest painters of her time, but like many other female artists, she has often ended up in the shadows of history.
Gentileschi was 22 years old when she painted the painting commissioned by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger – heir to the Renaissance master Michelangelo – whose house later became the museum where the artwork hangs today.
When the work was commissioned, Gentileschi had just arrived in Florence after being forced to endure both painful and humiliating testimony during a trial against an art teacher who had raped her in Rome.
— Someone else would have been completely destroyed after that experience, but Artemisia will return. She comes to Florence. She is given this wonderful task of painting a nude full figure for the ceiling of the Buonarroti house. I think she’s showing people, ‘this is what I can do,’” says chief curator Elizabeth Wick.
It was Leonardo Buonarroti, a descendant of the client, who 70 years later had the work painted over because it is said that he did not want to expose his wife and children to the nude portrait.