A Moment in Art history: Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi – what do self-portraits reveal about artists?

Many famous artists have painted self-portraits, but today we’ll talk about a self-portrait by Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi that employs powerful symbolism to give the viewer deep insights into the way the artist viewed herself.

Artwork in the background:

Landscapes by John Horejs https://pinetop.xanadugallery.com/collections/john-horejs

Barn by Richard Harrington https://pinetop.xanadugallery.com/collections/richard-c-harrington

Edge of landscape 😁 by Shalece Fiack https://pinetop.xanadugallery.com/collections/shalece-fiack


Parts of the video script were sourced from Wikipedia: 




About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Love this work. Love this artist. Did not know the history of it and am happy to know it now. I have painted two self portraits and one one is barely good, the other tells a good story but is not great. Maybe someday I will get both aspects together.

  2. I love this painting, but how did she do it?! Did she pose a model? Use multiple mirrors? It’s such a difficult pose I can’t imagine getting into position , the same position over and over, managing to arrange the mirrors just right and then painting it! Blows me away. Masterful.

  3. I have studied Artemisia when I prepared a presentation about women artists. When I was in college there was no mention of her in the art history textbooks. In fact, there were no women artists mentioned at all. Artemisia and many of the other female artists in Europe are often unknown due to their work being in collections that have never been sold and so never valued, or often seen at all.

    1. I loved the Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art for exactly that reason. In brief (literally) it is full of women’s art history.

  4. Thank you for sharing this moment in art history. What an accomplished artist Artemisia was having to overcome the “traditional attitude and psychological submission to brainwashing and jealousy of her obvious talent.” The only weapons at her disposal was to use the weapon of personality and her artistic qualities against the prejudices of women painters. This is evident in her self portrait as a professional artist. Personally I was thinking of doing a self portrait. As a wildlife artist I doubt I would portray myself in a silk dress, hair combed as a professional artist painting in my studio.

  5. Artemisia was to art as Hypatia was to mathematics and astronomy, both suffering at the hands of lesser individuals. My artwork focuses on animals and plant life, not the human form so it is unlikely that I will ever draw a self portrait, however, were I to do so it would be combined with my favorite subject matter, animals and trees.

  6. Thank you, I really enjoy these Moments in Art History and found her story very interesting. Yes, I’ve done a self-portrait. I am a pastel artist. I tore up a lot of old paintings and instead of throwing them up decided to created a portrait from the pieces—a sort of collage. I quite like it and plan to do it again (I tear up old paintings every year).

  7. Her beautiful painting includes but rises above social commentary. It’s the painting. Successful in every way. It reaches out and draws one in. Sort of a feeling w/o a name is installed in ones heart. The skill is fascinates. Her feeling, her cause, her intelligence is left lingering in ones thought and soul. It’s the painting. A master. A painter.

  8. Thank you for these educational moments. Love them.
    Artemisia is awesome. Most unusual composition. I need to learn more about her now.

    My own self portraits are rare. Usually done at moments of frustration or excess amounts of paint left on my palette. I like to think they capture momentary mood.
    Again. Thank you!

  9. Thank you for the opportunity to view and to comment as I have.
    The self portrait was  begun in 1997 two years after the loss my husband John. The second portrait was finished this year 2022 two years after the loss of my partner Douglas .This is a perfect example of the plea to my students to throw away the fear and “seize the date”.
    I am speaking kindly to myself having surfaced again  from the experience of loss of love.
    It doesn’t become easier but with the passage of time an understanding of loss, is one which can make us stronger by becoming aware of the fact that love travels  with us and will never be extinguished throughout this passage.The third Grace will hopefully appear on the left of the others in ten to twenty years time.

  10. Again,, Jason, thank you for this great ongoing series of art history blogs – they are extremely fascinating – as for Artemesia – she is undoubtedly a master painter because her self portrait has the absolute most important quality of portraits – it’s ALIVE. The painting is the person – you really know her from looking at it – you know how she is feeling, how she moves, even a bit about what she is thinking – the resoluteness of her life, which was necessary for her to have any success against the many obstacles she faced, is in this painting, you can feel it!

    I think every artist should do a self portrait every year, or at least many times during their career – it’s a valuable learning experience and gets you to see yourself “from the outside” – I highly recommend it. This year I did several versions of my yearly self portrait – I’d enclose thumbnails if that were possible, but in lieu of that here are links to 2 of them in my Artmajeur portfolio –




  11. Of course she painted the amazing Judith Slaying Holofernes – after the hostilities leveled against her during the sexual abuse trial this painting and the way she depicts it is more than justified.

  12. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing the about the lives of these important artists. Women often have to push themselves to the front row in order not to be discounted entirely. I admire her tenacity and boldness.

  13. Thanks Jason for keeping the ball rolling.
    Bringing back our memories to these great artists who made our today.I really enjoyed listening to the story of this great positive feminist artist of great talent.
    It’s a coincidence because i’m actually doing myself a self portrait though it’s an abstract figurative.
    Thanks Jason for contributing to my total engagement in my art in the United States.

  14. Artemisia´s life is fascinating, and I am thoroughly offended that I only learnt of her existence as an adult, in spite of having taken art in school, read numerous Histories of the Arts, etc. It was as though women artists did not exist until the end of the 19th century!
    I am a ceramic artist and have done several nominal “self-portraits”: the character in the piece is meant to be me, but I use another live model to sculpt her. Since they are nudes… the mechanics of standing in front of a mirror in the middle of a communal studio would be complex! 🙂
    I have never offered these self-portraits for sale, they are deeply personal and are part of my grieving process every time I lose one of my beloved whippets. In each of the pieces I am posed holding or touching a sleeping hound -only I know this sleep is permanent.

  15. Thank you Jason. Always wonderful to see her work. Her talent is incredible. How she captured that portrait definitely shows her capabilities. Self portraits are pretty intense I find when you are attempting them in a regular pose in front of the mirror.

    I did do a self portrait in chalk and charcoal and to do it right took a bit of time. On this one self portrait I had to pull it back at least three times because different pieces of what I thought was me were coming out of me, but the last try even stuns me. A tough task done truthfully is well worth the struggle and doing portraits has always been my passion and a great test to see if I capture accurately my sitter. Tough work!

  16. Your talk is very timely. I’ve been invited to create a portrait for an exhibition in September. I’m diving in now. There appears to be renewed interest in portraiture, including self portraits. In the spring I saw a wonderful contemporary portrait exhibition at the LA County Museum. This self portrait of Artemisia is stunning in every way. A master work. Thank you for choosing her as your subject. Her strength is an inspiration.

  17. Originally, my artistic goal was to be a portrait painter and I tried it after becoming pretty proficient. However, I never worked up to having clients pose multiple times and would take lots of photos instead. I really hated working from photos, so I quit, but since it is a skill, I paint at least one self-portrait a year to stay in practice. I’m self-conscious about showing my self-portraits, however, because I think people will think I’m vain.

    1. Cyndie – people will think all sorts of things! Don’t worry about it, don’t care about it – You should show your self portraits (if you think you did capture yourself at that moment of time) with your other work ( of course if you were to show mostly self-portraits the criticism of being vain might apply), but 1 or 2 among a lot of other work is fine. If I were a collector (which I’m not because I’m an artist), I would be very interested in the self portraits of any artist whose work I liked and admired, and would probably be inclined to purchase them.

  18. Jason – I don’t know where else I should put this comment, but since you include a link to the work shown in the background while you do your blogs, I clicked on the link to your fathers work, and thus wound up looking at his whole portfolio – and I was very impressed with 4 artworks there – FISHING THE BIG WOOD, which very strongly reminded me of the masterwork film “A River Runs Through It” by Robert Redford – its an incredibly fine piece; also HORSESHOE CIENEGA LAKE DAWN – your father is really adept at showing the character of water, especially the glossy reflectiveness of almost calm but not mirror smooth water, which is very hard to depict correctly. I was also really taken with the painting of the (11 point?) buck, MY TERRITORY, and the painting of what I assume to be Quaking Aspens, SILENT WOODS.

  19. I enjoyed Susan Vreeland’s book “The Passion of Artemsia” and loved watching your piece on her. She was a strong woman and fabulous painter. I’ve done one self portrait as a group project with my two granddaughters. We each made of portrait of ourselves holding things that gave clues about us.

  20. Again, another amazing informational talk. I do love the self portrait and the talent and skill. I noticed that her arm that is painting is very masculine even though the figure itself is full and representative of the period. Her use of light and dark is magnificent. I myself have never painted a self portrait because it feels like a daunting task to replicate a likeness. Maybe one day. 🤔 thank you for your time and expertise in presenting this information.

  21. Yes! I love this and as a female writer and painter, I couldn’t be more grateful to learn about this. Thank you for all you do!

  22. Yessss. An interesting choice of pose. An interesting choice of garb, too. I doubt that she painted while wearing that dress. On the other hand, it is an excellent ad for her ability to depict the wealth of clients, something that was desired in those days. Conspicuous consumption was the name of the game and people apparently loved to see it especially on those who represented them.

    As for self portraits, I have an unfortunate tendency to age sitters about 10 years. Since I don’t particularly want to know what I’m going to look like in ten years, I can understand why sitters don’t either. I prefer rocks and trees to people anyway (ten years won’t bother them).

    The challenge to make a self portrait now and then, however, makes good sense for any artist. Have to think about it.

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