In the early 1600s Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was the eager student of her father, Italian Baroque painter Orazio. They lived and worked together in Rome with Artemisia serving as one of the many apprentices for Orazio's great works commissioned by the Catholic Church, nobility and wealthy merchants of the city. By age eighteen Artemisia was becoming a talented artist in her own right, especially when it came to depicting the power and beauty of the female form on canvas. (Painting: Self Portriat as the Allegory of Painting, 1630)
Then her father betrays her publicly for his own selfish artistic interests. The Passion of Artemisia is Susan Vreeland's novel of a woman's struggles to become an artist within the confines of a male dominated society.
Teaser Tuesday is described by its host Miz B over at Should be Reading as a "weekly bookish meme" open to any reader who wants to play along. If, like me, you're always curious about what people are reading or on the lookout for the next great read, then this may be your meme. If you want to play, just click on Miz B's link for the very simple rules.
The Passion of Artemisia
by Susan Vreeleand
"The next morning, I started "Judith Slaying Holofernes". I could barely bend my fingers to grasp the egg-shaped muller to pulverize the pigments on my marble slab. Pain is not important. I had to ignore it, I told myself. Only painting is important. Paint out the pain, Graziela had said."
Book Description: Susan Vreeland's novel is based on the life and work of the first woman to ever be accepted to the famed Accademia dell' Arte of Florence, Italy. Artemisia Gentileschi is a fortunate young woman until 18 years of age, happily working with her father Orazio and learning to paint under his protection. At that age her father engages a tutor, Augustino Tassi, to teach her, among other things, how to show perspective in her works. Tassi ends up raping young Artemisia and her father hauls him before the papal court. Not for abusing his young daughter, but for harming his reputation as a painter. Artemisia is forced to stand before the court and defend her own innocence without her father's support.
Her reputation is ruined in Rome, she is forced into an arranged marriage with another painter from Florence where they go to live. For the remainder of her life Artemisia must struggle to balance her life as an artist, wife and mother. And, at the same time, find acceptance and patronage for her work. Her paintings of strong Biblical women figures such as Judith, Susanna, and Magdalen and historical figures like Cleopatra and Lucretia mirrors her real life struggles and triumphs.
I enjoy films based on books that I've read. Here is the movie trailer from "Artemisia", a 1997 production of the early life of Artemisia Gentileschi. It is somewhat romanticised, but still a fascinating account of painting in early 1600s in Italy.
(Note about Artemisia's damaged hands: when she was forced to testify before the papal court in Tasso's trial, she had to submit to an in court examination to see whether or not she was still a virgin. That was not enough, while on the witness stand she was also subjected to the sibille. Her hands were bound, palms facing each other with cords through her fingers. As she gave testimony a wooden screw was tightened with each question to force her to tell the truth. When they finished with her, Artemisia feared that her hands would be too damaged to paint again.)