Old Master Minute

An Artemisia uncovered in Beirut

By Sotheby's
Picture: The Art Newspaper

One more painting has been admitted to Artemisia Gentileschi’s oeuvre, which now numbers sixty-one works. The latest work to be accepted comes from a most unlikely source: the rubble and debris of the 2020 Beirut explosion.

This devastating event, which killed over two hundred people and left hundreds of thousands homeless, had an art historical silver lining – the re-evaluation and attribution of Gentileschi’s mythological canvas Hercules and Omphale – a painting which had hung in Sursock Palace, largely evading scholarly attention. That said, Lebanese art historian Gregory Buchakjian had attributed the canvas to Gentileschi in an unpublished master’s dissertation, but it was only when his findings were made public in an article published in Apollo Magazine that the picture has been unanimously accepted as being by her. As a result of all this, the picture, badly damaged in the blast, is undergoing conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles before eventually returning to Beirut in 2023.

This is the latest act in an eventful few years for the much-re-evaluated female artist. Artemisia has recently been the subject of a major exhibition at the National Gallery in 2020 – her first UK retrospective. Sotheby’s have also sold several pictures from her small but expanding oeuvre, most recently offering her Susanna and the Elders, which sold earlier this year in New York for $2,137,500.

Old Master Minute