Artemisia Gentileschi Lost Painting in The U.K.’s Royal Collection

Artemisia Gentileschi Lost Painting Emerged as Rediscovered in the U.K.'s Royal Collection and Once Adorned Queen's Fireplace.

Sep 26, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Artemisia Gentileschi
the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. Via Wikipedia


Artemisia Gentileschi painting was considered lost or sold from the royal assortment after the execution of Charles I, in 1649. Many, before this, incorrectly referred to the picture as part of the “French School”. The painting collected dust at the Hampton Court Palace for a century. Niko Munz and a team of the Royal Collection’s curators saved the piece with their expertise.


Artemisia Gentileschi Challenges the Male-Dominated Art World

Artemisia Gentileschi
Conservator Adelaide Izat working on Susanna and the Elders. Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023.


Overall, they were looking into the locations of artworks lost or sold during the execution of Charles I. But, now the experts rediscovered it. Whilst collaborating with her dad Orazio, the Italian Baroque painter created Susanne and the Elders. Both of them worked at the court of King Charles I in London in the 1630s. Deputy surveyor of the King’s pictures, Anna Reynolds spoke about the discovery.


“Artemisia was a strong, dynamic, and exceptionally talented artist. Her female subjects—including Susanna—look at you from their canvases with the same determination to make their voices heard that Artemisia showed in the male-dominated art world of the 17th century”, she said. Charles I, a devoted supporter and art collector, possessed seven Artemisia art pieces.


Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders (c. 1638–39). Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023.


But, until recently, many thought that only Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (c. 1638–9) survived. Researchers were able to connect the narrative of Susanna and the Elders to the abandoned painting now identified as Artemisia, after closely examining works in storage. The specialists decided to dust and maintain the artwork after letting their aspirations grow.

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Commissioned by Queen Henrietta Maria

women artists gentileschi judith painting
Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1608-12, via Nasjonal Museet, Oslo


When they discovered a “CR,” standing for “Carolus Rex,” on the canvas’s reverse, their assumptions showed to be correct. This suggests that Charles I originally had the piece. The origins of it are currently established thanks to legal documents that demonstrate the king’s spouse Henrietta Maria ordered it sometime between 1638 and 1639.


“One of the most exciting parts of this painting’s story is that it appears to have been commissioned by Queen Henrietta Maria while her apartments were being redecorated for a royal birth”, said Munz. The painting perched over the burning stove in her retreating chamber. This was a quiet space where we could unwind and host a few visitors. The king’s son Charles II then received the piece.


artemisia gentileschi self portrait saint catherine alexandria
Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1616, National Gallery of London.


It can be seen resting against a wall in the Queen’s Bedchamber at Kensington Palace in an 1819 watercolor. Since Artemisia was no longer well-known at this point, the piece was finally transferred to Hampton Court Palace. According to the last record, it had a renovation in 1862 that involved considerable overpainting at the time before fading into oblivion.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.