Newly-discovered Artemisia painting sells for record €4.8 million

A newly discovered canvas by the female 17th-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi sold for almost 4.8 million euros on Wednesday, a record for the artist, auction house Artcurial said.

Newly-discovered Artemisia painting sells for record €4.8 million
Artemisia Gentileschi's Lucretia was found among a private collection in France. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The sale came amid a surge of interest in the rare female baroque painter's extraordinarily dramatic work, and smashed the base estimate of between 600,000 and 800,000 euros.

READ ALSO: Newly discovered work by Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi up for auction

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

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

After a “long bidding battle” over the telephone, the painting was sold in Paris for 4,777,000 euros to a European collector, the French auction house said.

It nearly doubled the previous record for her work – 2.8 million euros for a painting of Saint Catherine sold in Paris in 2017.

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

It is extremely rare for Artemisia works to come on the market.

After years of obscurity, Artemisia (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.

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

“The interest in older paintings is growing,” said Matthieu Fournier, director of the department of old masters at Artcurial, and art expert Eric Turquin in a statement.

“For the first time we are seeing contemporary art collectors migrate towards classical art”, they added.

Turquin had earlier said the work is “worthy of the great museums of the world” and “comes to us in an exceptional state of conservation”.

In a sign of Artemisia'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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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.