Creative response to the Artemisia Gentileschi self-portrait “Saint Catherine of Alexandria”

When the National Gallery were generous enough to loan this wonderful painting to the library, I was inspired to put pen to paper. This was the result, which I was proud to perform at the exhibition launch :-


Oh gentle, noble

And courteous Artemisia

Named for the divine huntress

And protector of young women

Who could not, alas

Protect you

From an




Crying “Not so much painting”

As he defiled your tender canvas

Your bitter taste not enough to repel


No holy life for you for father’s shame

You suffered

As they added insult to your injury

Your artist’s fingers

Pulled and wrenched

To prove your testimony true

The law convicts but does not punish

And it falls to you

By rendering your Judith

To exact retribution on his

Hateful Holofernes

For besieging your walls

And sullying your precious state



And now

Here you are

And like the famed and fantastical

Queen of Dragons

You too show

You did not only stop the wheel

You broke the bloody wheel.

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