Creators' Statement: Artemisia Gentileschi Virtual Reality Experience
History meets cutting edge virtual reality technology this summer at Burghley House, bringing to life the story of one of Europe's most celebrated female artists of the 17th Century, Artemisia Gentileschi. Co-creators of the award-winning VR experience, Gaëlle Mourre and Quentin Darras, describe the inspiration and motivation behind it.
"(Hi)Story of a Painting was born from our desire to share our passion for stories, art, and learning, and to include as many people as possible in the process.
Art and art history are often seen as inaccessible for myriad reasons and yet, understanding art is essential to understanding a culture and how the past has shaped the world we live in today. Most of us don’t know why one painting or sculpture is important, and we walk right past them, not knowing there’s likely a fascinating story behind it!
And that couldn’t be more true of our episode 'The Light in the Shadow', which focuses on Artemisia Gentileschi’s work and life. Discovering her story, and the detail behind her composition and technique, is an eye opening and inspiring experience.
Nothing will ever replace viewing an artwork in person but the pandemic has brought to light a longstanding truth: not all of us get to travel in the best of times and so how do we get to experience the world’s wonders, locally? Virtual Reality was our answer: viewing art and learning about art and art history in VR is the next best thing, if we may say so ourselves! We’ve gathered an unprecedented collection of Artemisia’s work into a single experience, where each viewer has the opportunity to admire Artemisia’s work in their own immersive world.
One special piece in the experience is Burghley House’s very own Artemisia Gentileschi painting: 'Susannah and the Elders' (see if you spot it when you experience 'The Light in the Shadow'!) It’s such a treat to get to show our piece in as remarkable a place as this, one that offers viewers a rare opportunity for holistic immersion. To start the transition from the physical world into the virtual world before even putting on a headset is integral to a rich VR experience and Burghley House naturally allows for this - the history, architecture and magnificent scenery create a wonderful sense of displacement.
Showing 'The Light in the Shadow' here is also personally very meaningful to us. We shared our script with Burghley's Head Curator, Jon Culverhouse, late last year and his encouragement was like rocket fuel, and is what eventually led us to this collaboration with Burghley House.
We’re so excited to be launching 'The Light in the Shadow' in the UK at Burghley, we can’t wait to share it with Burghley’s visitors!"
Gaëlle Mourre and Quentin Darras
About Susannah and the Elders
This sensational work is one of the jewels in the extensive collection of paintings at Burghley. It was painted for an Italian noble, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, in 1622 and passed down through his family until its purchase by Brownlow, 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-1793), and brought back to his Burghley home. The purchase was almost certainly facilitated by James Byres, a well-known guide and advisor to English aristocrats making their Grand Tour.
Although bought by the Earl as by Gentileschi, several 19th Century art historians considered the painting to be by Caravaggio. This question was finally resolved in 1991, when conservation and cleaning revealed Artemisia’s signature. Since then, the increasing popularity of the artist has caused it to be lent to no less than twelve major exhibitions worldwide meaning it is rarely, if ever, on display at Burghley. The painting will make a special appearance at the House this summer, for the duration of the VR exhibition.
The Artemisia Gentileschi Virtual Reality Experience, 'The Light in the Shadow', was showing at Burghley from 23rd July to 31st August 2022.