The J. Paul Getty Museum


Object Details




Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, 1593 - after 1654)




Italy (Place Created)


about 1627


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



92.9 × 72.7 cm (36 9/16 × 28 5/8 in.)

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Object Description

Lucretia emerges from the shadows and grasps a dagger, aiming it at her chest. The beauty of her translucent skin, the pearls in her hair, the luxurious fabrics—all contrast with the horror of what is about to happen. The main source for the story of Lucretia is the History of Rome (Book I, 57 – 59) by ancient Roman historian Titus Livius. The legendary Lucretia was the virtuous wife of the nobleman Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus. After her rape by Sextus Tarquinius, the son of the King of Rome, she called on her father and her husband for vengeance and then, while proclaiming her innocence, stabbed herself to death. Anger and grief over Lucretia’s death led to a rebellion that brought down the corrupted monarchy and made her a martyr for freedom. Lucretia became an enduring symbol of female strength, and her story likely had personal resonance for the artist: like Lucretia, Artemisia Gentileschi had experienced sexual violence as a young woman.

Artemisia often depicted donne forti (strong women) in her work, in this way shaping her artistic persona as an independent and successful painter in a world dominated by men. She approached her subjects with great empathy and translated their experiences into emotionally complex paintings. Artemisia painted Lucretia at least four times during her career, and in all but one of the surviving examples she portrayed the isolated figure of Lucretia in the moment just before she plunges the dagger on her breast. Three poems written in Venice in 1627 celebrated a painting of Lucretia by the hand of Artemisia. The author has not been identified with certainty, but he was likely Giovan Francesco Loredan, who was part of a close-knit group of writers, artists, musicians, and patrons who were associated with Artemisia during her Venetian sojourn (1626/27 – 1630). Artemisia’s portrayal of the elegant and sophisticated heroine hint at a profound engagement with the artistic legacy of sixteenth-century Venetian art, therefore leading to an identification of our painting with the work praised in the aforementioned poems.


Unknown (Venice, Italy)
Source: R. Ward Bissell. Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art: Critical Reading and Catalogue Raisonné (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), p. 374, no. L-54.

- until c. 1980

Private Collection (Cannes, France)

c. 1980 - 2019

Gilbert Molle (Lyon, France) [sold, Artcurial, Paris, November 13, 2019, lot 36, to Matthiesen Ltd., London.]

2019 - 2021

The Matthiesen Gallery (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2021.

Cléopâtre dans le miroir de l’art occidental (March 25 to August 1, 2004)
  • Musée Rath (Geneva), March 25 to August 1, 2004

Bissell, R. Ward. Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art: Critical Reading and Catalogue Raisonné (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), p. 374, no. L-54.

Cléopâtre dans le miroir de l’art occidental, exh. cat. (Geneva: Musée Rath, 2004), pp. 110-12, no. 20, entry by Mauro Natale.

Artcurial, Paris. Maîtres anciens et du XIXe siècle: Tableaux, dessins, sculptures. November 13, 2019, pp. 60-63, lot 36, ill.

Artemisia Gentileschi: A Venetian Lucretia (London: Matthiesen Ltd., 2020).

Treves, Letizia. Artemisia, exh. cat. (London: National Gallery, 2020), p. 231n7.