In the age of supermodels, it was fun to read that the 17th century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi complained to her patron of the difficulties of working with ‘expensive female models’.

I wonder if one of the ‘good ones’ she mentions is featured in this odalisque posing as Cleopatra.

Elsewhere, Artemisia states her pricing policy – upfront and no nonsense.


‘Tell this gentleman that I want five hundred ducats for both; he can show them to the whole world and, should he find anyone who does not think the paintings are worth two hundred scudi more, I won’t ask him to pay me the agreed price. I assure Your Most illustrious Lordship that these are paintings with nude figures requiring very expensive female models, which is a big headache. When I find good ones they fleece me, and at other times, one must suffer [their] pettiness with the patience of Job.’


Source: Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-c. 1653), letter to Don Antonio Ruffo, 13 November 1649, quoted in Janson’s History of Art, 5th edn (1995), p. 627

Image credits: Cleopatra and Self-Portrait, both by Artemisia Gentileschi


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Self Portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi -

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