In January 2023, American restaurateur Elizabeth Wicks was working on Artemisia Gentileschi’s Allegory of the Inclination at the Casa Buonarroti museum in the heart of Florence. AFP/Andreas SOLARO

At the end of the 17th century, veils were placed over a piece of art by the Roman artist. The canvas that the painter delivered will be as closely reconnected with as feasible thanks to a restoration project now underway in Florence.

A few veils, draped across the female breast, sometimes thick, other times thin and nearly translucent, worked. A conservative descendant of Michelangelo censored Artemisia Gentileschi’s 1616 painting “Allegory of the Inclination” more than 300 years ago in Florence. The nude that we can’t see vanishes under a few well-placed coats of paint through deft dissimulation. One of the earliest Baroque painters’ vision has been meticulously restored centuries later, keeping all of its original freshness. but sadly not in her nakedness of old.

According to American curator and restorer Elizabeth Wicks, it is currently too dangerous to attempt to remove this coating of oil paint, which can take up to two centuries to dry entirely. the group of specialists and technologists tasked with reviving the artwork. Artemisia Gentileschi, whose talent, independence, and dramatic life are gaining renewed interest in the context of the #MeToo era, is the artist of the Sistine Chapel, and her work is preserved in her Florentine home. The work was deposited in September and given to a team responsible for studying the secrets of this work.

L’Allegory of the Inclination depicts a woman sitting naked on a cloud and was one of 14 pieces commissioned by Michelangelo’s great-nephew to commemorate the artist’s (1475–1564) memory. The sponsor’s successors, who were disturbed by this personification of artistic invention, asked the painter Baldassare Franceschini, well known as Volterrano, to cover the Allegory in 1684. At the end of the 17th century, we were concerned about what these nudes may do to the women and kids in the home.

Censored sex and breasts

Volterrano complies and drapes a thick cloth over the thighs and sex of this Feminine Inclination before concealing them with a thin veil. “Since I don’t believe Artemisia would have found this picture very enjoyable, I like to believe that she was already in an other reality when it was prohibited. Although neither of us like it all that much, it is now a part of this painting’s history.

The Allegory of the Inclination’s thorough restoration will be finished in the spring. You will be able to learn about Artemisia Gentileschi’s original intent and creative process if you are unable to remove the layers of repaints. AFP/Andreas SOLARO

The restorers were able to find the fundamental spirit of the canvas that the artist who was born in Rome in 1593 had intended throughout their research despite being unable to erase these late repaints. “In order to comprehend how the artwork was created, painted, what transpired next, and what we can read behind the censorship that has been applied to the painting, as we say in Italian, we turned it inside out like a glove with all the technical diagnostics imaginable, according to Elizabeth Wicks. Everything you expect to discover hidden beneath the veil is present.

Artemisia Gentileschi created this Allegory soon after arriving in Florence from Rome, where she had been sexually assaulted at the age of 17 by a painter friend of her father. His attacker had been found guilty after a trial. She was well-known during her lifetime and a frequent recipient of royal commissions; as a result, she received compensation that was three times higher than that of her peers when she was hired to commission a Michelangelo ancestor.

A discussion on women’s art

Elizabeth Wicks carefully moves a piece of cotton soaked in solvent in circular motions over the paint’s surface to revive the vivid hues of the exposed flesh. The skin had gone orange from centuries of candle smoke, which had been augmented with varnishes in the 1960s, while the sky’s vivid lapis lazuli blue had turned gray-green. The specialist, who is using her magnification glasses to examine the canvas, explains, “You can see that this leg is lighter since I cleaned it up by lowering the coating of varnish.

It has been feasible to re-discover the once-hidden nudity as well as the alterations that Artemisia herself made to the hands and eyes thanks to X-ray analyses and other imaging techniques. Visitors will be able to inspect the Allegory of the Inclination up close, view digital photos revealing the various strata, and learn about the contemporary methods that have made it feasible to detect them at an exhibition planned for September. The picture will then be placed back on the ceiling in its original position.

In order to “generate a reflection on the creativity of women, the fact that they were protagonists of their period,” according to the project coordinator Linda Falcone In the Michelangelo-inspired work where a woman comes and declares, “Me as a woman, I have the need to create,” Artemisia takes center stage. She continues, “She puts the heroine in the middle of the canvas and this heroine has her face. a couple additional veils, too.

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