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Artemisia Gentileschi’s censored 1616 nude painting to be virtually unveiled

Art restorers in Florence have embarked on a six-month project to digitally unveil what was once a 17th-century nude painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque artist and one of the most prominent female artists in the history of Italian art. The Allegory of Inclination, painted in 1616, originally portrayed a life-sized nude female figure before the nudity was painted over with veils and drapery some 70 years later by a male painter striving to uphold the rigid moral sensibilities of the male-dominated art world, according to NPR

Gentileschi painted the work, thought to be a self-portrait, when she was 22 years of age. The image of a nude female figure resting on clouds was commissioned by Michelangelo Buonarotti the Younger, the great-nephew of the famous artist responsible for producing the Statue of David and the frescoes adorning the Sistine Chapel, including the world-famous Creation of Adam. The Allegory of Inclination was painted on the ceiling of Buonarroti the Younger’s family home in Florence that is now a museum called Casa Buonarroti, according to the AP.

Art restorers will use ultraviolet light, diagnostic imaging, and X-rays to create a digital image of Gentileschi’s original painting, utilizing modern technologies to differentiate Gentileschi’s brushstrokes from those of the cover-up artist. The result will be a virtual unveiling as the veils and drapery were painted too soon after the original painting and removing them would damage Gentileschi’s original artwork, according to Sky News

In wake of the #MeToo era, Gentileschi is gaining renewed attention not only for her artistic contributions to the Baroque art movement but also for establishing herself as a prominent female artist in Italy’s male-dominated art world despite having been raped as a teenager by one of her art teachers. At 17, she testified at a trial in Rome against her rapist and was tortured during her testimony in methods that at the time were considered to be “lie detectors.”  Despite these traumatic events, Gentileschi emerged as a prominent artist during a period in which women’s agency was forcibly restricted to being a dutiful wife and a doting mother to many children.

The public can watch the restoration progress through April 2023. Art restorers will then reveal a digital image of the original in an exhibition centered around Gentileschi and the restoration project which will be held at Casa Buonarroti from September 2023 through January 2024.

Asia London Palomba

Asia London Palomba is a trilingual freelance journalist from Rome, Italy, currently pursuing her master's in journalism at New York University (NYU). In the past, her work on culture, travel, and history has been published in The Boston Globe, Atlas Obscura, and The Christian Science Monitor. In her free time, Asia enjoys traveling home to Italy to spend time with family and friends, drinking Hugo Spritzes, and making her nonna's homemade cavatelli.