Masterpiece worth $4.7 million visits the doctor

Gentileschi painting on tour in England

By Matthew Robinson, CNN
Wikimedia Commons

Artemisia Gentileschi's "Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria"

(CNN) - A masterpiece worth £3.6 million ($4.7 million) has taken a detour from the illustrious surroundings of London's National Gallery and headed to a rural doctor's surgery in the north of England.

Artemisia Gentileschi's "Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria" -- one of the National Gallery's most recent acquisitions -- has been unveiled at the Pocklington Group Surgery in East Yorkshire in what the museum describes as the first tour of its kind.

The painting's stop at the surgery is just one in a series of visits it will make this summer to "unusual and unexpected venues" as part of a program bringing the National Gallery's artworks to a wider audience, the museum said in a statement.

The artwork kicked off its tour at Glasgow Women's Library for International Women's Day, and when its term at the surgery ends on May 11, it will head to a girls' school and an arts festival in east London.

The tour was made possible by a collaboration between the National Gallery and the charity Paintings in Hospitals, which says its mission is to use "world-class art to inspire hope and boost well-being for patients, carers and communities."

Amisha Karia, the head of collection, loans and programming at the charity, told CNN that it was "brilliant" to be working with the National Gallery in order to "inspire better health and well-being" by placing art in a care environment.

"There is a lot of evidence suggesting that art can ease anxiety, stress, depression, reduce the lengths of stays in hospital, and improve communication between patients and carers," she said.

She added that Pocklington Group Practice was chosen as it is the only GP surgery in the town, and most of its residents are likely to have visited it. "It was about placing an important painting in the heart of a community," she said.

When the Gentileschi masterpiece moves on, the charity will continue to work with the surgery by providing a number other artworks from its collections that "celebrate the many ground-breaking women artists represented," Karia said in a statement.

"The chosen artworks will then go on display at the surgery for the next three years," she added.

Berni Judge, the managing partner of Pocklington Group Practice, said staff at the surgery were "extremely excited" to have been chosen by the National Gallery and Paintings in Hospitals.

"We know our staff and patients are going to be thrilled to have her here," she said in a statement.

She added that non-patients will also be allowed to visit the surgery at dedicated visiting times, so the wider community has a chance to see the painting.

Asked about the painting's security during its trip to the doctor, a spokeswoman for the museum told CNN: "We have undertaken rigorous evaluations of each venue that Artemisia will visit to ensure she is kept just as safe and secure as she would be here in the National Gallery."

Gabriele Finaldi, the museum's director, said it had "never done a tour like this" and expressed his excitement that its works can be "enjoyed by people who may not be able to see it in Trafalgar Square."

Gentileschi's "Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria" dates from between 1615 and 1617, and depicts the artist in the guise of Saint Catherine, a Christian saint martyred in the early 4th century.

The painting was bought by the National Gallery for £3.6 million ($4.7 million) in 2018 and unveiled in December.

Gentileschi is considered one of the most accomplished artists among the followers of Caravaggio, the National Gallery said, and was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence.

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