Lot 38. Orazio Gentileschi (Pisa 1563 - 1639 London), Head of a Woman, oil on panel, 16 1/2  by 14 3/8  in.; 42 by 37 cm. Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's

ProvenanceAcquired by King Charles I of England, Whitehall Palace, London, by 1636, (recorded in his 1636/37 inventory);
His estate, Saint James' Palace, London (recorded in the 1649/51 inventory);
Robert Houghton and the Third Dividend, by 1651/52;
With Agnew's, London, by 1930;
Harry Eustace Marsland Benn (1902-1987), Ilkley, by 1951 and until 1981;
With Agnew's, London, by 1988;
From whom acquired by an American private collector in 1989.

ExhibitedLondon, Royal Academy of Arts, Exhibition of Italian Art, 1200-1900, 1 January - 8 March 1930, no. 733;
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Mostra del Caravaggio e dei caravaggeschi, April - June 1951, no. 114;
London, National Gallery; Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao; Madrid, Museo del Prado, Orazio Gentileschi and the Court of Charles I, 3 March - 20 November 1999, no 10;
Rome, Museo di Palazzo Venezia; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Saint Louis, The Saint Louis Museum of Art, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, 15 October 2001 - 15 September 2002, no. 50.

LiteratureW.G. Constable, "Dipinti di raccolte inglesi alla mostra d'arte italiana a Londra", in Dedalo, 10, 1929-30, pp. 756, 758, 761 (unless otherwise stated here and below as by Orazio Gentileschi);
W.G. Constable (ed.), Exhibition of Italian Art, 1200-1900, exhibition catalogue, London 1930, p. 334, cat. no. 733;
D. Lindsay Balniel and K. Clark, A Commemorative Catalogue of the Exhibition of Italian Art Held in the Galleries of the Royal Academy, Burlington House, London, January-March 1930, London 1931, vol. I, p. 159, cat. no. 465;
The Burlington Magazine, LXXIV, 1939, p. 293;
"An Exhibition of Late Italian Masters", in The Burlington Magazine, LXXX, 1942, p. 19, reproduced p. 19, fig. D;
R. Longhi, "Ultimi studi sul Caravaggio e la sua cerchia", in Proporzioni, I, 1943 p. 47, note 38;
R. Longhi, Mostra del Caravaggio e dei caravaggeschi, exhibition catalogue, Florence 1951, p. 66, cat. no. 114;
O. Millar (ed.) "Abraham Van Der Voort's Catalogue of the Collections of Charles I", in the Walpole Society 37 (1958-60), London 1960, pp. 38 and 231;
W.L.F. Nutthall, "King Charles I's Pictures and the Commonwealth Sale", in Apollo, 82, 1965, pp. 302, 304, 308;
O. Millar (ed.), "The Inventories and Valuations of the King's Goods", in Walpole Society (1970-72), London 1972, p. 266, cat. no. 158;
B. Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement: Lists of Pictures by Caravaggio and His Followers throughout Europe from 1590 to 1650, Oxford 1979, pp. 25 and 53 (as Gentileschi or Paulus Bor);
R. Ward Bissell, Orazio Gentileschi and the Poetic Tradition in Caravaggesque Painting, University Park, Pennsylvania 1981, pp. 58, 193-94, cat. no. 68, reproduced fig. 130;
B. Nicolson, in L. Vertova (ed.) Caravaggism in Europe, Turin 1990, pp. 66, 116 (as Gentileschi or Paulus Bor);
G. Finaldi (ed.), Orazio Gentileschi and the Court of Charles I, exhibition catalogue, London 1999, pp. 22, 36 note 50, 99;  
J. Wood, "Orazio Gentileschi and Some Netherlandish Artists in London: The Patronage of the Duke of Buckingham, Charles I, and Henrietta Maria", in Simiolus, 28, no. 3 (2000-2001), p. 114; 
K. Christiansen and J.W. Mann, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, exhibition catalogue New York 2001, pp. 244-46, cat. no. 50, reproduced in color.

Notes: Orazio Gentileschi (fig. 1) is rightly praised for his lyrical and gentle interpretation of the caravaggesque idiom, as well as his meticulous depiction of the sheen and texture of fabrics, which he approached with the sensitivity of a still-life painter. An aspect of his work that is not praised enough, however, is his psychological insight, no doubt because so few of his extant paintings capture deep emotion and inquisitiveness in quite the same way as the present depiction of a lady, who looks back at us so hauntingly. It is at the same time ethereal and psychologically penetrative, both other-worldly in its beauty and yet evidently describing a real person. Several sources mention that Gentileschi painted portraits while in England, but none alas has survived. 


Anthony van Dyck, Drawing of Orazio Gentileschi © The Trustees of the British Museum, Art Resource, NY

Gentileschi counted among his patrons the leading collectors of his time as well as several European monarchs. The present panel was painted during the first half of the 1630s, while the artist was working at the court of King Charles I of England (fig. 2), who is recorded as having acquired the work by 1636. Gentileschi's presence and success at the court caused some resentment and in 1627 a group of English painters, no doubt envious of the royal pension Orazio was awarded, drew up a petition to present to the king in which they complained that too many foreign artists, among them Gentileschi, were stealing their work.


Anthony van Dyck, Equestrian Portrait of Charles I, oil on canvas / National Gallery, London, UK Bridgeman Images

Orazio had two faithful allies though, for the Duke of Buckingham was a loyal patron and Queen Henrietta Maria was very fond of his work. Indeed, one of his key commissions during his time at the English court was the Allegory of Peace and the Arts for the Queen's House in Greenwich, now installed at Marlborough House, London. Joseph and Potiphar's wife, again painted in London and today at Hampton Court, was also destined for the Queen's House. Gentileschi had previously worked at the French court in Paris as well as for the leading nobility in Genoa. One of his most important commissions there, painted for the Sauli family in 1615, was the magnificent Danaë (fig. 3) sold in these Rooms on 28 January 2016, which today hangs in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles with its pendant, a Lot and his Daughters. The third picture in the set is a Penitent Magdalene in a private collection. On Orazio’s death in 1639 he was given the singular honor of burial in the recently completed Catholic Chapel designed for Queen Henrietta Maria at Somerset House in London by Inigo Jones.


Orazio Gentileschi, Danaë, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.