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Maryland Art Place Installation
Rome: June 1622
Artemisia Gentileschi is in Rome, at work on a commission for Pietro Gentile. The subject is Cleopatra, often a favorite subject of patrons in the Baroque. The artist recalls a childhood visit to the Pyramid of Caius Cestius. Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, told the story of how this rather minor roman official became entranced by the ancient Egyptians and their monuments, as had many of his contemporaries. Caius Cestius commissioned the pyramid, which upon its completion in 12 B.C. was much smaller than the renowned structures at Giza, but nonetheless stands approximately 29 meters (89 feet) hight. The pyramid is located a tt he city wall, which in 1622 is at the remote outskirts of Rome.
The artist returns to the pyramid to sketch, hoping this exotic artifact will help to develop her concept for this commission. Pieitro Gentile wants an erotic nude--the dying Celopatra. Artemisia decides to stay until dark and await the moonrise that will light the pyramid and the ancient wall. Calmed by the cooling night air and the moonlight flooding the scene, she recallls her view thorugh the telescope of Galileo, which revealed the Moon's craters and perfect roundness. The patron's directive can wait -- at least for now.