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Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (around 1615-17)
National Gallery

The National Gallery in London has boosted its quota of works by female artists, acquiring for £3.6m a major painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, a leading artist of the Italian Baroque. The work, entitled Self-portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (around 1615-17), shows a female figure crowned by a halo.

The gallery has only 20 works by female artists in its 2,300-strong collection. Hannah Rothschild, the chair of the National Gallery board of trustees, says in a statement: “The acquisition of this great painting by Artemisia Gentileschi realises a long-held dream of increasing the National Gallery's collection of paintings by important women artists.”

The National Gallerys remit covers Western European painting from around 1250 to 1900, says Gabriele Finaldi, the gallery director. “However, for a great deal of this period women were largely denied the same opportunities that were afforded to men and as a result only a handful were able to succeed in the art of painting. Therefore, works by women artists of this period are very rare compared to works by male artists, and our collection reflects that historical fact,” he says.

The work was reportedly consigned to auction last December in Paris and was subsequently bought by the London-based dealer Robilant + Voena. The fundraising arm, American Friends of the National Gallery, contributed $3.7m while the Art Fund through the legacy of the late philanthropist Sir Denis Mahon gave £250,000.

The Edinburgh-based art historian Bendor Grosvenor describes the Gentileschi work as a "great subject, great picture, and from what I can tell, a great price". The painting will undergo conservation before going on display early next year.

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