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Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Artemisia Gentileschi
Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Artemisia Gentileschi 1615-17

That’s me. In the painting.
Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
I was always my own best model.
Maybe I flattered myself a little,
put colour in the cheeks, brightened the eyes.
Why not? I was young and vain. 

You there in the gallery, looking up,
do you wish to paint like me? See the
cruel wheel, its spikes meant for Catherine?
They say it shattered at her touch. See the break?
That took me days. See how the folds
of her garment fall just so? See the
crown and headdress? What a job I had,
getting it right.

Ah my sisters, you’ll never know the scorn,
the humiliation I endured, daring to paint
alongside men. All dead now.
My father Orazio believed in my talent, but even he
could not protect me. Still, I survived.
And others followed. Then more.
So not all bad. 

You’re staring at me. Don’t waste your tears.
Do I look like a loser? Go home. Paint. Do this.
Pause and remember me when next
you hold a brush to canvas.

 

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About the author:

Catherine McCallum

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Catherine McCallum is a writer from Tasmania. After a career in Australia and Europe as an art director, she now lives in a fishing village with her husband and two dogs, completing a YA Sci-fi novel and writing poetry inspired by favourite works of art.

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