In May this year I spent time in Florence, Rome and Naples unearthing the story of a remarkable woman. Her name was Artemisia Gentileschi and she was a painter. She lived at the beginning of the 17th century and by the time she was thirteen years old was producing work as good, and in most cases much better than anything the men were coming up with. Yet most people have never heard of her. Like me, when I started. But, like me, as soon as you see her work, you want to know more.
You can see the results of my curiosity in an hour long documentary called Michael Palin’s Quest for Artemisia. And it’s powerful stuff. She was not just a supreme painter of flesh and blood, she was also a strong and independent woman fighting to survive in a man’s world.
She made herself into a star, using her skill and her beauty to captivate the rich and famous. She was also the victim in the first-ever recorded rape trial.
Female painters are all too often ignored, but Artemisia was larger then life, living in a world of change and passion and ruthless competition. And she was good. Very good.
You can watch Michael Palin’s Quest For Artemisia on the BBC iPlayer here – a perfect time to fill your glass with some rich red wine and discover with me a new star of the art world!