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Newly discovered work by Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi up for auction

A newly discovered canvas by the female 17th-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi will go up for auction in Paris this week amid a surge of interest in her extraordinarily dramatic work.

Newly discovered work by Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi up for auction
Artemisia Gentileschi's Lucretia was found among a private collection in France. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

Leading auction house Artcurial will on Wednesday offer the painting Lucretia by Gentileschi with a base estimate of €600,000-800,000, it told AFP on Friday.

The painting was discovered only recently in a private collection in the French city of Lyon, where it had been stored unrecognised for some 40 years, Artcurial said.

The work depicts Lucretia, the ancient Roman noblewoman who killed herself after being raped, showing her bare-breasted and about to plunge a dagger into her upper chest.

READ ALSO: Meet three of Rome's wildest women

Artemisia Gentileschi, Death of Cleopatra, 1613 or 1621-1622.

The painting is “worthy of the great museums of the world” and “comes to us in an exceptional state of conservation”, said prominent art expert Eric Turquin.

It is extremely rare for Gentileschi works to come on the market and the painting is expected to go to a private buyer. The current record for her work is the €2.8 million reached for a painting of Saint Catherine sold in Paris in 2017.

After several years of obscurity, Gentileschi (1593-1654) is now recognised as one of the greatest painters of the post-Caravaggio era and one of the few to match the great Baroque master's sense of drama and light.

Her status as of the few female painters of the period has also fuelled a surge of interest in her work and life. She was raped by fellow painter Agostino Tassi and had to undergo excruciating cross-examination during a highly publicised trial that resulted in his conviction.

READ ALSO: Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque heroine for the #MeToo era


Detail from Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria.

The painting of Lucretia shows a “desire to shock, force through a point and find the viewer which is Caravaggio-esque,” Turquin said.

Matthieu Fournier, director of the department of old masters at Artcurial, descrived the depiction of Lucretia in the painting as “autobiographical”.

“The story of Artemisia is just like that story [of Lucretia], except that Artemisia decided on another outcome for her life,” he told AFP. “She was raped by Tassi who worked with her father Orazio Gentileschi. She decided to start a trial so he was convicted. She won. Thus she gave a destiny of salvation to her life as a woman and career as an artist,” he said.

In a sign of Gentileschi's growing prominence, the National Gallery in London will next year stage the first major exhibition of her work in Britain, bringing together 35 works from around the world.

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CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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