Lucas Bought an Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi and associate, The Triumph of Galatea, about 1649. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Jori Finkel, writing in The Art Newspaper, surveys the expanding collection of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. She reports that the Lucas was the buyer of The Triumph of Galatea, a large mythological painting attributed to Artemisia Gentileschi that was auctioned by Christie's for $2.13 million in Oct. 2020

The painting is newly assigned to Artemisia. In 2007 Christie's auctioned the same painting as the work of Bernado Cavallino. There'a a Cavallino painting of Galatea in the National Gallery of Art. Exhibition of both works in Naples and Rome shifted opinion toward Artemisia as the author of the version the Lucas bought. The pose of Galatea resembles that of dad Orazio Gentileschi's Danaë in the Getty Museum. Father and daughter sometimes shared models (the subject of a recent exhibition in Cleveland, in fact).

Artemisia's letters mention that she was working on a Triumph of Galatea for Sicilian collector Don Antonio Ruffo (also known as a patron of Rembrandt). The Christie's write-up mentions the possibility that the background tritons might be by an assistant. The two in front are probably by Artemisia, as is Galatea and her shell/chariot.

The correspondence with Ruffo contained the self-assured comment mentioned in every Artemisia biography: "My illustrious lordship, I will show what a woman can do."

The Triumph of Galatea is not the bloody scene of female vengeance that we have come to associate with the artist. But it's long been clear that she did more conventional subjects as well, and was equally esteemed for them in her time. For that matter, Galatea was a wronged woman. A cyclops killed her boyfriend. 

The Lucas has bought some lesser Old Master paintings, presumably on the grounds that they're "narrative." This is the only such purchase I'm aware of by a major name—and a woman at that. The Triumph of Galetea measures 77.5 by 100 inches, bigger than Orazio's Danaë

Finkel also mentions that "a new area of focus" for the Lucas collection is Mexican calendar art by artists such as Jesús Helguera. If that name doesn't ring a bell, you've probably seen reproductions of his work in muffler shops and hipster book shops. Helguera is known for pin-up senoritas and flamboyant fantasies of Old Aztlán. He admired the Mexican Muralists and traveled to archeological sites in the name of authenticity, even when he was working for comic books, calendars, and cigar boxes. Helguera didn't exhibit his original paintings and may not have had an elevated view of their significance. In recent years his original paintings have reached six-figure prices at auction. Below is El Rapto, which sold for $400,000 in May 2019.

Jesús Helguera, El Rapto. Private collection


Anonymous said…
The Lucas will be a grab-bag type of museum, a place possibly easier to understand for those people who find overly hipster-, abstract-type of contemporary art too much a case of "huh?" and "been there, done that"?

This purchase makes me think of how the Hammer has its namesake's collection submerged next to its mainly contemporary art collecting and Broad-type exhibitions.

Meanwhile, LACMA has somewhat vanished altogether.