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October 14, 2021

Artemisia Gentileschi, “Self-Portrait as a Lute Player,” c. 1615-18, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800 is the first exhibition solely dedicated to Italian women artists at any encyclopedic museum in the United States. Curated in collaboration between the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts, the exhibition explores the women artists who worked in Italy around 1600 – how they succeeded in a male-dominated art world and the impact they made. The exhibition uses well-known painter Artemisia Gentileschi as a focal point, while introducing and celebrating several other virtually unknown but accomplished artists. The exhibition is comprised of 80 works from institutional and private collections, including Gentileschi’s famous “Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes” (c. 1623-25) and “Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy” (c. 1620-25).

Artemisia Gentileschi, “Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes,” c. 1623-25, oil on canvas, Detroit Institute of Arts.

By Her Hand explores the barriers these women faced – for example, limited access to educational resources in the field and the fact that they were barred from securing apprenticeships. Despite these obstacles, many artists successfully pursued their ambition, painting not only portraits and still lifes from their own surroundings, but also portraying complex biblical, historical, and allegorical scenes as well. This exhibition seeks to illuminate these women and their accomplishments, and to inspire continued reexaminations of the role women artists have played throughout the history of art.

Elisabetta Sirani, “Portia Wounding her Thigh,” 1664, oil on canvas, Collection of Art and History of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio, Bologna.

By Her Hand will be on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum until January 9, 2022, and at the Detroit Institute of Arts from February 6 to May 29, 2022. Support for educational programming for this exhibition was granted by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. For more information, please visit