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. I really look forward to these moments in history. I’m a self taught artist (with input from some extraordinary artists’ workshops). I thoroughly enjoy your perspectives on the long lines of Art. Thank you!!

  2. I think she had every right and the talent to paint herself the way she did. Personally I have only painted two self-portraits and in both I am one of two people in the painting. Perhaps I don’t feel I can stand on my own. I also would like to note how times have changed and in the 2000’s I know more women artists than men and they are often superior artists. I wonder why this has taken so long to be accepted.

  3. I did not know of Artemesia, so thank you for this. Her self-portrait—her left arm seems very exaggerated to me; that, I’m assuming from someone so skilled, was a choice. It is almost punching out, defiant—a sort of “finger.”. I did my first self-portrait recently. I was cleaning out the past year’s paintings—which should I keep, which should I throw away?—as I always do, and decided in the moment to tear up the ones I planned to discard and create a self portrait from them, a kind of collage. The background is parts of a seascape, which I do a lot of, and I am made up of little pieces of lots of paintings. I kind of love it, even though it was a first effort and I learned what I would do differently next time—which I will. I may do one every year as my clean-out exercise.

  4. I love Artemisia’s work and her story. I tried to no avail to convince my daughter to name her daughter Artemisia! My favorite painting is her Judith slays Holnferes, — such anger and determination and revenge! I have always imagined that the model for the man she is slaying in that painting is her rapist.
    My only self-portrait thus far, does not take myself as seriously as Artemisia does. Maybe I should take note of that message!

  5. I have spent most of the last four years painting my autobiography. I now have over 200 paintings and drawings of friends, family, and me. Probably one of the worst marketing decisions ever, but very rewarding personally.

  6. I had an art teacher who does a self portrait every year on his birthday. I think it’s a wonderful idea. I have done two so far. The first one was just after I had surgery on my hand and was in a huge cast. It was an amazing experience. The second was me with all of my wrinkles and flaws. It deeply disturbed my daughter but was kind of freeing for me. Thanks for these art history moments. I have learned a lot.

  7. Thank you, Jason. I have yet to purposely paint a self-portrait. But In my series, LISTENING, i have been told by clients and fellow artists that I am painting myself. Perhaps it is the familiar-from-the mirror lines that appear in these fictional pieces. I do know that after listening to this and reckoning with the trials female artists have suffered, I should take this time to attempt my own self portrait but have never thought of following a prescribed formula as was suggested during her time. These ‘moments’ are inspiring.

  8. This was wonderful. I have admired and loved Artemisia’s work for two decades now. I was shocked not to have heard or read about her before 2001, when I first “discovered” her work! ( In London!). I was unaware that her self-portrait was based on the allegory of art. I think she was totally justified to portray herself as the allegory of art! I’m fascinated that she chose not to bound her mouth, however. She must have been a very strong person with so much talent that even the male dominated Art Academy could not ignore her.
    I have long since admired tenebrism, or the use of deep shadows, which she and Caravaggio both used to great effect. Her work has that extra dimension of lush, rich color as well as dramatic figures rendered with lights and darks. I did not know she painted Galileo. Wow. Your talk was so interesting.

  9. That was fascinating, thank you Jason. I am always amazed how some of the artists of this era could paint in such formal tight clothing, rather than a loose smock etc. Perhaps she painted in the tight bodice dress later…

  10. Wow! I loved this discussion. She was awesome…an organic feminist. The fact that she broke down the barriers of women in art in a patriarchal zeitgeist earns her the title of being the epitome of art. She had to have worked mercilessly hard to earn her titles and to have rubbed elbows and earned the respect of scientists and kings. Here’s to you, Artemisia.

  11. I do love this portrait and the story of Artemisia because she was so strong. I have done at least two self portraits. One was charcoal on paper in the nude called ” prima gravida” ( my first and only pregnancy). It was before the famous Demi Moore portrait. The second was of my reflection on the bus. I am not smiling, but then I was on my way to work. I like both.

  12. Wonderful to see this painting Jason and a great reminder to think about the artist painting her self portrait. As an artist who paints people I can say that a lot of us initially choose this because it is a free model, but thinking about this self portrait, what I have run to do is to express my look of how I’m feeling at that moment. It is my thought that I need to to capture how I’m feeling at that very moment. It is a glimpse in time and I probably won’t have this same look again. And after looking over my self portraits I I am reminded that I step into that space of how I felt at that very moment, and like how I felt or not I feel thankful for capturing and observing me in that past moment/feeling and II get so caught up observing that persons feeling that I think to myself, you have to do more of this. The artist always in her thought!

  13. Thank you for sharing this. I also, did not know of Artemisia. I love her strength and talent. She must have been quite extraordinary for her time. Yes, I’ve done 2 self portraits. One that I frequently use as my avatar on some of the art sales sites I’m on.

  14. I am wondering if you have a recommendation on an Art History course online? Or a recommendation for a self-paced method. I love this series “A Moment in Art History”.

  15. Thank you for a delightful presentation! I have loved Artemisia since she was (barely) mentioned in art school, back in 1968…as female painters, we had very few role models in Art History. I do a self-portrait every 10 years, near the birthdays, and each changes radically with age & circumstances, even stylistically…a good exercise in self-awareness, and really a stretch for me – I usually paint expressionistic landscapes and weave tapestries! So, women artists – Ever Onward!

  16. I do like the way she represented herself in her self portrait. It does not glamourize or objectify herself but shows her at work. Focused and intent on her art.

    I have done a self-portrait of sorts but it is halfof a bonded pair, whose other half is a portrait of my husband. Both are done more as archetypal images than realistic portraits. People who know us say they capture us but I am not sure if other people would say that. I don’t have a problem with that because they were done more to represent men and women in general than to document us. Since we were asked to submit our websites, anyone who wants to see them should look under hand-made prints and go to my WoMan Series.

    Thanks for the video, Jason. I too never knew about her until I took a Women in Art class. She was never mentions in the Art History classes.

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