Look at the self-portraits of Gentileschi, Leyster, and Rembrandt.What do these portraits tell us about the position of women artists during 17th and 18th centuries?

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though the scope of this comparison is very narrow, if you look at examples of self portraits of Artemisia Gentileschi and Judith Leyster compared to the self portrait(s) of Rembrandt, there is one very obvious difference.  The women paint themselves painting, whereas Rembrandt paints his portrait as if he is sitting for himself.

When we think of the so-called "great" artists of the 17th and 18th centuries, we most likely think of men.  This is not by accident.  Historically speaking, painting, sculpting, and even music, as a form of both creative expression and income was a male-dominated part of society.  Perhaps these women, knowing full well that they were unique as females in such a role, wanted to be remembered as artists specifically, and so they painted themselves at work.  Art, in general, was considered "beyond the scope" of a woman's talent or intelligence at that time.  Any woman artist from this time period was a revolutionary and could have even been considered a pre-mature feminist, in a way.