The Passion of Artemisia

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Overview

Recently rediscovered by art historians, and one of the few female post-Renaissance painters to achieve fame during her own era, Artemisia Gentileschi led a remarkably "modern" life. Susan Vreeland tells Artemisia's captivating story, beginning with her public humiliation in a rape trial at the age of eighteen, and continuing through her father's betrayal, her marriage of convenience, motherhood, and growing fame as an artist. Set against the glorious backdrops of Rome, Florence, Genoa, and Naples, inhabited by ...

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Overview

Recently rediscovered by art historians, and one of the few female post-Renaissance painters to achieve fame during her own era, Artemisia Gentileschi led a remarkably "modern" life. Susan Vreeland tells Artemisia's captivating story, beginning with her public humiliation in a rape trial at the age of eighteen, and continuing through her father's betrayal, her marriage of convenience, motherhood, and growing fame as an artist. Set against the glorious backdrops of Rome, Florence, Genoa, and Naples, inhabited by historical characters such as Galileo and Cosimo de' Medici II, and filled with rich details about life as a seventeenth-century painter, Vreeland creates an inspiring story about one woman's lifelong struggle to reconcile career and family, passion and genius.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland traced a Vermeer masterpiece through the lives of a succession of owners. In her second novel she unfolds the life of painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1652), arguably the first major female figure in the history of art. As told by Vreeland, Gentileschi's life has all the fierce passion and muscular tension of a great Renaissance painting.
From the Publisher
"A privileged glimpse into an extraordinary woman's soul."—Margaret George

"Lovely."—The Atlantic Monthly

"Susan Vreeland set a high standard with Girl in Hyacinth Blue.... The Passion of Artemisia is even better.... Vreeland's unsentimental prose turns the factual Artemisia into a fictional heroine you won't soon forget." —People

"Vreeland has burrowed deeply into the mind of the artist and produced a vivid cast of female characters." —Vogue 

"Vreeland's remarkable ability to portray with lyricism and intelligence the life of the artist both at its most practical and most sublime makes this novel an accomplished work of art." —San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle
Vreeland's remarkable ability...makes this novel an accomplished work of art.
From The Critics
This engaging novel, based on the life of the Baroque Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, begins with a notorious trial. When Artemisia's father, painter Orazio Gentileschi, publicly accuses his colleague, Agostino Tassi, of raping his teenage daughter, the case is brought before the papal court of Rome. At one point in the seven-month trial, Artemisia's palms are pressed together and her fingers are bound with a cord that is attached to a screw, which could be turned "just enough for the cords to squeeze a little." With her accused rapist sitting across from her, Artemisia is forced to defend her honor while the court attendant turns the screw until her fingers begin to bleed. On another day, she is examined by midwives who determine, in front of the whole courtroom, that she has been deflowered. After the court adjourns, Agostino receives a brief prison sentence, Orazio returns to painting Cardinal Borghese's Casino of the Muses and Artemisia is married off to a painter named Pietro Stiatessi, who whisks his "tainted" bride away to his native Florence.

Despite the brutal opening scenes, this isn't a sensational victim story. Instead, it is a thoughtfully rendered account of Artemisia's unconventional and inspiring life after the trial. Shaped around the events that "could have" inspired the paintings ascribed to the real Artemisia Gentileschi, the narrative chronicles her quickly arranged marriage to Pietro, the birth of her daughter and her struggles to define herself as a painter at a time when only male artists were taken seriously.

Like one of Artemisia's chiaroscuros, this novel's themes are presented theatrically; its famous characters are drawn with boldcontrasts of darkness and light. In Florence, Artemisia is admired by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, who gives her a paintbrush once owned by his great-uncle, "Il Divino." When Artemisia strikes up a fond acquaintanceship with Galileo one night at the Pitti Palace, the astronomer reveals to her the "wild and dangerous notion" that Jupiter has four moons instead of seven, and that the Earth revolves around the sun. It's easy to forgive Vreeland for these moments of heavy-handedness, because the book also explores Artemisia's subtle and complex relationships with more obscure characters.

Amused and intrigued by his wife's interest in painting, Pietro allows Artemisia to paint. After their daughter is born, they work side by side, with the child Palmira crawling between the legs of their easels. It isn't until Artemisia becomes the first woman accepted into the Academy of Florence—before Pietro is accepted—that professional jealousies drive them apart.

Alternately a distracted and doting mother, Artemisia is continually torn between her devotion to painting and her love for her daughter. Most of all, she feels guilty for denying her daughter contact with Orazio. For Artemisia, he is the father who told her stories of "sibyls, muses, and saints" and taught her how to paint. He's also the man who announced her shame to the Roman public and watched silently as the court attendant nearly severed the fingers from her hands. Vreeland suggests that Orazio's influence, as well as his betrayal, shaped Artemisia's character the most.

Thirteen years after the trial and her break with Orazio, Artemisia returns to Rome and visits the Borghese Casino. She discovers that Orazio had painted her image on the ceiling, and that he'd aged her into a "distracted" matron. She realizes that Orazio had predicted what the trial and the years ahead would do to her. Still unable to forgive him, she begins to understand why he didn't defend her at the trial—he simply needed to get back to his painting. Nothing else mattered.

In writing her second novel, Vreeland drew from the written testimony of the rape trial and Artemisia's documented correspondences with Galileo, Cosimo de'Medici II and Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, but she gleaned her heroine's voice and spirit from the actual paintings by Artemisia Gentileschi. Unlike biographer Alexandra Lapierre's meticulously researched and dense Artemisia, which was published in 2000, Vreeland's novel is a more distilled version of the woman's life; it targets readers who will enjoy the narration regardless of how familiar they are with Gentileschi's work.

Some people may question whether another speculative historical fiction about Artemisia is necessary. The answer is yes. In historical documentation, the facts of a woman's life are far more mutable than a man's. Though she was a respected artist at the end of her life, her work soon fell into obscurity, and her character was sexualized rather than admired. Vreeland's novel reminds us that Artemisia was a fiercely independent, prodigiously talented woman, the first to paint traditional religious and historical heroines from an original, female perspective. She painted Judith with the sleeves of her lavish gown pushed up her powerful forearms, a look of patient concentration on her face as she slayed Holofernes; her Cleopatra languished and died of public shame long before the asp bit her. Like Gentileschi's important works, The Passion of Artemisia provides an imaginative and respectful point of view to a compelling woman's story.
—Susan Tekulve
Publishers Weekly
Vreeland follows up the success of Girl in Hyacinth Blue with another novel delving into the themes of art, history and the lives of women. Narrated in the wise, candid first-person voice of Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653), the novel tells the story of Gentileschi's life and career in Renaissance Italy. Publicly humiliated and scorned in Rome after her participation as defendant in a rape trial in which the accused is her painting teacher (and father's friend) Agostino Tassi, Artemisia accepts a hastily arranged marriage at the age of 18 to Pietro Stiatessi, an artist in Florence. Her marriage, while not a love match, proves at first to be affectionate, and the arrival of a daughter, Palmira, strengthens the bond with her husband. But rifts soon develop as Artemisia begins to have some success: she wins the patronage of the Medicis and is the first woman to be elected to the Accademia dell'Arte before her husband. Studio and home become the battlefields of Artemisia's life, and Vreeland chronicles 20 years of the painter's struggles while raising her daughter alone. Details and visuals abound in the book; readers who loved the painterly descriptions of Girl will be spellbound in particular by the scenes in which Artemisia is shown at work. While some threads in the story are frustratingly dropped and the narrative concludes before the end of Artemisia's life, the underlying themes of familial and artistic reconciliation are satisfyingly developed. Forthright and imaginative, Vreeland's deft recreation ably showcases art and life. Agent, Barbara Braun. (Jan. 14) Forecast: Fans of Girl in Hyacinth Blue will be pleased with The Passion of Artemisia, which reprises many of the themes of its predecessor. Published to coincide with an exhibition of the works of Gentileschi and her father in New York City and St. Louis, the book will also be promoted by Vreeland's 12-city author tour, and has been named Book Sense's #1 pick for January/February. Expect happy sales. Rights sold in Denmark, England, Finland and Germany. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
Artemisia Gentileschi, a young Italian painter under her father Orazio's apprenticeship, is raped repeatedly by her father's friend Agostino Tassi yet silenced by his promise to marry her. When her father takes Tassi to court, he claims that Tassi has damaged his daughter's reputation and rendered her paintings of lesser value. Artemisia, however, is questioned, tortured to make her truthful, physically examined in public, and made to feel like a criminal. When Tassi eventually is convicted, his sentence is minimal, but Artemisia is shamed forever in Rome. Her father marries her off quickly to Pietro, another artist, and the couple moves to Florence, where Artemisia is able to establish herself as a painter. The first woman to be accepted into the Academia dell'Arte, her persistence wins the patronage of the Medicis. Her husband's career is less successful, and he increasingly resents her achievements. Eventually Artemisia accepts the patronage of a Genoese merchant and leaves Pietro, supporting their daughter Palmira herself. She is reunited with her father, although the relationship is strained. Years later, after her own daughter is married and her father is dying, Artemisia is finally able to reconcile with Orazio. In this sympathetic portrait of the female Baroque painter, Artemisia comes alive through the first-person text, introducing the reader to post Wallace
Library Journal
Following her best-selling Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Vreeland tells of Artemisia Gentileschi, a 16th-century painter and the first woman admitted to the Accademia dell' Arte in Florence. The book begins with Artemisia's public humiliation in a papal court after she accuses her father's friend and her painting teacher, Agostino Tassi, of rape. Her father, Orazio, to make up for his lack of support during the trial, arranges for her to marry Pietro Stiatessi, a painter from Florence. Happy at first, the couple have a daughter, but as Artemisia's painting gains recognition and eclipses that of her husband's, the marriage falters. Forced to support herself and her daughter, Artemisia travels to Genoa, Rome, and Naples to find work and advance her career, maintaining her steadfast devotion to art while trying to be a good mother. Vreeland skillfully captures the detail of the paintings and of Artemisia's joy in creating beauty. Few writers can convey the visual arts as vividly. Gigi Bermingham reads with warmth and clarity, bringing the characters to life. Tape quality is excellent; enthusiastically recommended, especially for art lovers.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After her brilliant Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999), Vreeland shows a deep knowledge of art once more but also veers toward message and melodrama.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142001820
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/17/2002
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 190,851
  • Product dimensions: 4.48 (w) x 7.37 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Vreeland

SUSAN VREELAND grew up in California and taught high-school English in the San Diego school system for 30 years. She wrote a widely used student-writing handbook titled What English Teachers Want, as well as two previous novels. Her short fiction has appeard in several literary journals, and she received Inkwell Magazine's Grand Prize for Fiction in 1999. She lives in San Diego.
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    1. Hometown:
      San Diego, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 20, 1946
    2. Place of Birth:
      Racine, Wisconsin
    1. Education:
      San Diego State University
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Sibille

My father walked beside me to give me courage, his palm touching gently the back laces of my bodice. In the low-angled glare already baking the paving stones of the piazza and the top of my head, the still shadow of the Inquisitor's noose hanging above the Tor di Nona, the papal court, stretched grotesquely down the wall, its shape the outline of a tear.

"A brief unpleasantness, Artemisia," my father said, looking straight ahead. "Just a little squeezing."

He meant the sibille.

If, while my hands were bound, I gave again the same testimony as I had the previous weeks, they would know it was the truth and the trial would be over. Not my trial. I kept telling myself that: I was not on trial. Agostino Tassi was on trial.

The words of the indictment my father had sent to Pope Paul V rang in my ears: "Agostino Tassi deflowered my daughter Artemisia and did carnal actions by force many times, acts that brought grave and enormous damage to me, Orazio Gentileschi, painter and citizen of Rome, the poor plaintiff, so that I could not sell her painting talent for so high a price."

I hadn't wanted anyone to know. I wasn't even going to tell him, but he heard me crying once and forced it out of me. There was that missing painting, too, one Agostino had admired, and so he charged him.

"How much squeezing?" I asked.

"It will be over quickly."

I didn't look at any faces in the crowd gathering at the entrance to the Tor. I already knew what they'd show-lewd curiosity, accusation, contempt. Instead, I looked at the yellow honeysuckle blooming against stucco walls the color of Roman ochre. Each color made the other more vibrant. Papa had taught me that.

"Fragrant blossoms," beggars cried, offering them to women coming to hear the proceedings in the musty courtroom. Anything for a giulio. A cripple thrust into my hand a wilted bloom, rank with urine. He knew I was Artemisia Gentileschi. I dropped it on his misshapen knee.

My dry throat tightened as we entered the dark, humid Sala del Tribunale. Leaving Papa at the front row of benches, I stepped up two steps and took my usual seat opposite Agostino Tassi, my father's friend and collaborator. My rapist. Leaning on his elbow, he didn't move when I sat down. His black hair and beard were overgrown and wild. His face, more handsome than he deserved, had the color and hardness of a bronze sculpture.

Behind a table, the papal notary, a small man swathed in deep purple, was sharpening his quills with a knife, letting the shavings fall to the floor. A dusty beam of light from a high window fell on his hands and lightened the folds of his sleeve to lavender. "Fourteen, May, 1612," the notary muttered as he wrote. Two months, and this was the first day he didn't have a bored look on his face. The day I would be vindicated. I pressed my hands tight against my ribs.

The Illustrious Lord Hieronimo Felicio, Locumtenente of Rome appointed as judge and interrogator by His Holiness, swept in and sat on a raised chair, arranging his scarlet robes to be more voluminous. Papal functionaries were always posturing in public. Under his silk skull cap, his jowls sagged like overripe fruit. He was followed by a huge man with a shaved head whose shoulders bulged out of his sleeveless leather tunic-the Assistente di Tortura. A hot wave of fear rushed through me. With a flick of a finger the Lord High Locumtenente ordered him to draw a sheer curtain across the room separating us from Papa and the rabble crowded on benches on the other side. The curtain hadn't been there before.

The Locumtenente scowled and his fierce black eyebrows joined, making a shadow. "You understand, Signorina Gentileschi, our purpose." His voice was slick as linseed oil. "The Delphic sybils always told the truth."

I remembered the Delphic sibyl on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo portrayed her as a powerful woman alarmed by what she sees. Papa and I had stood under it in silent awe, squeezing each other's hands to contain our excitement. Maybe the sibille would only squeeze as hard as that.

"Likewise, the sibille is merely an instrument designed to bring truth to women's lips. We will see whether you persist in what you have testified." He squinted his goat's eyes. "I wonder what tightening the cords might do to a painter's ability to hold a brush-properly." My stomach cramped. The Locumtenente turned to Agostino. "You are a painter too, Signor Tassi. Do you know what the sibille can do to a young girl's fingers?"

Agostino didn't even blink.

My fingers curled into fists. "What can it do? Tell me."

The Assistente forced my hands flat and wound a long cord around the base of each finger, then tied my hands palm to palm at my wrists and ran the cord around each pair of fingers like a vine. He attached a monstrous wooden screw and turned it just enough for the cords to squeeze a little.

"What can it do?" I cried. I looked for Papa through the curtain. He was leaning forward pulling at his beard.

"Nothing," the Locumtenente said. "It can do nothing, if you tell the truth."

"It can't cut off my fingers, can it?"

"That, signorina, is up to you."

My fingers began to throb slightly. I looked at Papa. He gave me a reassuring nod.

"Tell us now, for I'm sure you see reason, have you had sexual relations with Geronimo the Modenese?"

"I don't know anyone by that name."

"With Pasquino Fiorentino?"

"I don't know him either."

"With Francesco Scarpellino?"

"The name means nothing to me."

"With the cleric Artigenio?"

"I tell you, no. I don't know these men."

"That's a lie. She lies. She wants to discredit me to take my commissions," Agostino said.

"She's an insatiable whore."

I couldn't believe my ears.

"No," Papa bellowed. "He's trying to pass her off as a whore to avoid the nozze di riparazione. He wants to ruin the Gentileschi name. He's jealous."

The Locumtenente ignored Papa and curled back his lip. "Have you had sexual relations with your father, Orazio Gentileschi?"

"I would spit if you had said that outside this courtroom," I whispered.

"Tighten it!" the Locumtenente ordered.

The hideous screw creaked. I sucked in my breath. Rough cords scraped across the base of my fingers, burning. Murmurs beyond the curtain roared in my ears.

"Signorina Gentileschi, how old are you?"

"Eighteen."

"Eighteen. Not so young that you don't know you should not offend your interrogator. Let us resume. Have you had sexual relations with an orderly to Our Holy Father, the late Cosimo Quorli?"

"He . . . he tried, Your Excellency. Agostino Tassi brought him into the house. I fought him away. They had both been hounding me. Giving me lewd looks. Whispering suggestions."

"For how long?"

"Many months. A year. I was barely seventeen when it started."

"What kind of suggestions?"

"I don't like to say." The Locumtenente flashed a look at the Assistente, who moved toward me. "Suggestions of my hidden beauty. Cosimo Quorli threatened to boast about having me if I didn't submit."

"And did you submit?"

"No."

"This same Cosimo Quorli reported to other orderlies of the Palazzo Apostolico that he was, in truth, your father, that your mother, Prudenzia Montone, had frequently encouraged him to visit her privately, whereupon she conceived." He paused and scrutinized my face.

"You must admit you do have a resemblance. Has he, on any occasion, ever revealed this to you?"

"The claim is ludicrous. I must now defend my mother's honor as well as mine against this mockery?"

It seemed enough to him that he had planted the idea. He cleared his throat and pretended to read some document.

"Did you not, on repeated occasions, engage in sexual relations willingly with Agostino Tassi?"

The room closed in. I held my breath.

The Assistente turned the screw.

I tightened all my muscles against it. The cords bit into my flesh. Rings of fire. Blood oozed between them in two places, three, all over. How could Papa let them? He didn't tell me there would be blood. I sucked in air through my teeth. This was Agostino's trial, not mine. How to make it stop? The truth.

"Not willingly. Agostino Tassi dishonored me. He raped me and violated my virginity."

"When did this occur?"

"Last year. Just after Easter."

"If a woman is raped, she must have done something to invite it. What were you doing?"

"Painting! In my bedchamber." I squeezed shut my eyes to get out the words. "I was painting our housekeeper, Tuzia, and her baby as the Madonna and Child. She let him in. My father was away. She knew Agostino. He was my father's friend. My father hired him to teach me perspective."

"Why did you not cry out?"

"I couldn't. He held a handkerchief over my mouth."

"Did you not try to stop him?"

"I pulled his hair and scratched his face and . . . his member. I even threw a dagger at him."

"A virtuous woman keeps a dagger in her bedchamber?"

My head was about to split. "A threatened woman does."

"And after that occasion?"

"He came again, let in by Tuzia. He pushed himself on me . . . and in me." Sweat trickled between my breasts.

"Did you resist?"

"I scratched and pushed him."

"Did you always resist?"

I searched Agostino's face. Immovable as a painting. "Say something." Only two months ago he had said he loved me. "Agostino," I pleaded. "Don't let them do this."

He looked down and dug dirt from his fingernails.

The Locumtenente turned to Agostino. "Do you wish to amend your claim of innocence?"

Agostino's strong-featured face turned cold and ugly. I didn't want to beg. Not him. Santa Maria, I prayed, don't let me beg him.

"No," he said. "She's a whore just like her mother."

"She thought she was betrothed!" Papa bellowed from beyond the curtain. "It was understood. He would marry her. A proper nozze di riparazione."

The Locumtenente leaned toward me. "You haven't answered the question, signora. The sibille can be made to cut off a finger."

"It's Agostino who's on trial, not I. Let him be subjected to the sibille."

"Tighten!"

Madre di Dio, let me faint before I scream. Blood streamed. My new white sleeve was soaked in red. Papa, make them stop. What was I to do? Tell them what they want? Lie? Say I'm a whore? That would only set Agostino free. Another turn. "Oh oh oh oh stop!" Was I screaming?

"For the love of God, stop!" Papa shouted and stood up.

The Locumtenente snapped his fingers to have him gagged. "God loves those, Signor Gentileschi, who tell the truth." He leered at me. "Now tell me, and tell me truthfully, signorina, after the first time did you always resist?"

The room blurred. The world swirled out of control. The screw, my hands-there was nothing else. Pain so wicked I-I-Che Dio mi salvi-would the cords touch bone?-Che Santa Maria mi salvi-Gesu-Madre di Dio-make it stop. I had to tell.

"I tried to, but in the end, no. He promised he would marry me, and I . . . I believed him." Dio mi salvi, stop it stop it stop it. "So I allowed him . . . against my desires . . . so he would keep his promise. What else could I do?"

My breath. I couldn't get my breath.

"Enough. Adjourned until tomorrow." He waved his hand in disgust and triumph. "All parties to be present."

The sibille was loosened and removed.

Rage hissed through me. My hands trembled, and shook blood onto my skirt. Agostino lurched toward me, but the guards grabbed him to take him away. I wanted to wait until the crowd left, but a guard pushed me out with everyone else and I had to walk through hoots and jeers with bleeding hands. In the glare of the street, I felt something thrown at my back. I didn't turn around to see what it was. Beside me, Papa offered me his handkerchief.

"I'd rather bleed."

"Artemisia, take this."

"You didn't tell me what the sibille could do." I passed him, and walked faster than he could. At home I shoved my clothing cassapanca behind my chamber door with my knees, and flung myself onto my bed and cried.

How could he have let this happen? How could he be so selfish? My dearest papa. All those happy times on the Via Appia-picnics with Mama listening for doves and Papa gathering sage to scrub into the floor. Papa wrapping his feet and mine in scrubbing cloths soaked in sage water, sliding to the rhythm of his love songs, his voice warbling on the high notes, waving his arms like a cypress in the wind until I laughed. That was my papa.

Was.

And all his stories about great paintings-sitting on my bed, letting me snuggle in his arms, slipping me some candied orange rind. Wonderful stories. Rebekah at the well at Nahor, her skin so clear that when she raised her chin to drink, you could see the water flowing down her throat. Cleopatra floating the Nile on a barge piled with fruit and flowers. Dana‘ and the golden shower, Bathsheba, Judith, sibyls, muses, saints-he made them all real. He had made me want to be a painter, let me trace the drawings in his great leather-bound Iconologia, taught me how to hold a brush when I was five, how to grind pigments and mix colors when I was ten. He gave me my very own grinding muller and marble slab. He gave me my life.

What if I could never paint again with these hands? What was the use in living then? The dagger was still under the bed. I didn't have to live if the world became too cruel.

But there was my Judith to paint-if I could. More than ever I wanted to do that now.

Papa rattled the door. "Artemisia, let me in."

"I don't want to talk to you. You knew what the sibille could do."

"I didn't think-"

"S“, eh. You didn't think."

He wedged the door open and pushed the trunk out of the way. He brought in a bowl of water and cloths to clean my hands. I rolled away from him.

"Artemisia, permit me."

"If Mama were still here she wouldn't have let you allow it."

"I didn't realize. I-"

"She wouldn't have wanted it public, like I didn't."

"In time, Artemisia, it won't matter."

"When a woman's name is all she has, it matters."

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

What would it take for a woman to be a famous painter in Baroque Italy? Talent. Passion. Determination. Good fortune. Artemisia Gentileschi had all but one.

In my previous novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Magdalena, the fictional daughter of Johannes Vermeer, longed to paint. With the eye of an artist she imagined a painting of the moment of her father's death, "but the task was too fearsome. She lacked the skill, and the one to teach her had never offered."

But what if someone had offered? When I learned that a well known Italian Baroque painter, Orazio Gentileschi, did teach his daughter, Artemisia, I was fascinated. That she produced works of startling invention which took the Baroque spirit of exuberance to its height, that she expressed a feminist sensibility in painting strong heroines caught in moments of danger or tension, thinking and acting against the grain, that she was the first woman to be admitted into the Accademia dell' Arte in Florence, the first woman to make her living solely by her brush—all this was more than I'd hoped for. And when I read that she had been raped at seventeen by her father's friend and collaborator, her second teacher, I knew there was a story here.

Rather than focusing the story on the rape or using a broad brush to paint a sweeping biography, I chose to explore the inner Artemisia, her developing state of mind, her transcendence over misfortune and resentment, the possibilities of forgiveness and love in a ruptured life, and the connecting tissue of beauty, art, spirituality, and wholeness which allow her, finally, to tell her father, "We've been lucky. We've been able to live by what we love. And to live painting, as we have, wherever we have, is to live passion and imagination and connection and adoration, all the best of life—to be more alive than the rest."

Inquiring into what state of mind is most propitious for creative work, Virginia Woolf asserts in A Room of One's Own that "the mind of an artist, in order to achieve the prodigious effort of freeing whole and entire the work that is in him, must be incandescent, like Shakespeare's mind." She says of him, "All desire to protest, to preach, to proclaim an injury, to pay off a score, to make the world the witness of some hardship or grievance was fired out of him and consumed. Therefore his poetry flows from him free and unimpeded."

But what of a woman who had plenty of reasons for grievance—rape, public scorn, torture by a papal court intending to cripple her talent, betrayal by a father who saw her as a novelty through which he could make money, the jealousy and indifference of a philandering husband? How was she to set it all aside so as to give birth, whole and unstained, to the work gestating in her? Or could the circumstances of her life serve a creative purpose? Could her passions be used, or must they be repressed in order to achieve a fragile satisfaction in her work? In post-Renaissance Italy, what would be required of a woman to keep that mind incandescent?

Those were the questions that intrigued me. I had to write a novel to find the answers.

Steeping myself in her cultural milieu, I wanted to translate the Baroque style of visual arts into storytelling. Just as Baroque figures are realistic individuals instead of ideal types, I pictured an Artemisia who has a thick neck, develops a double chin, has backaches, buys real boar sausage, screams in childbirth, swats her child, manages money poorly. In her world, a servant girl yearns to draw, a washerwoman sings arias, and a nun disobeys her order to adore the art of Rome. Just as the Baroque gives us scenes dramatically contrasting light and dark, I've drawn a woman torn by the vicissitudes of an uncertain life, going through dark times—slander, torture, heartbreak, grief—and experiencing extraordinarily bright periods—patronage by the Medici, the joy of motherhood, utter abandonment in love, and exuberance in the act of creation—any of which could suddenly darken. Happiness is never secure.

The Passion of Artemisia is fiction, which is to say, imagined conversations seamed together by pieces of days and nights, trivial as well as momentous actions, invented characters as well as actual people. Woolf says women's history "has to be invented—both discovered and made up." This is the process by which an historic figure moves from yellowed archives to academic interest and from scholarship to heroic popular legend, becoming more complex and beloved as a result. I wanted to participate in giving Artemisia her cultural moment, her own heroism. I was true to fact only so long as fact furnished believable drama, in the hope that what I produced would be concordant with the soul and passions of the real Artemisia Gentileschi, 1593-1653, for whom the story behind the art was always vital.

ABOUT SUSAN VREELAND

I graduated from San Diego State University, and have lived in San Diego since I was twelve (oh, how lucky I am—I am grateful every day), and in California since I was two. I have taught high school English in the San Diego Unified School System since 1969, and ceramics since 1986, retiring recently after a 30-year career. My student writing handbook, What English Teachers Want, [ISBN 0-88092-224-9] is used in high schools and community colleges in many states, and can be ordered from Royal Fireworks Press, (914) 726-4444; or your local bookstore.

I didn't grow up longing to be a writer; in fact, the urge, strong as it is, is relatively recent. Concurrent with teaching, I began writing features for newspapers and magazines in 1980, taking up subjects in art, travel, education and skiing. I am married to a wonderful man, a software engineer who does my website. We live in San Diego, have no children, love to ski, take walks, visit museums, and travel, though we are too often embroiled in our work and are in a perennial struggle to make time for fun.

I turned to fiction to write What Love Sees. Published in 1988, it is the true story of Jean Treadway's unwavering determination to lead a normal life despite blindness. To this end, she leaves her sheltered, wealthy New England home and marries Forrest Holly, also blind, a struggling rancher in a remote California mountain town. The book was made into a CBS television movie starring Richard Thomas and Annabeth Gish. Though currently out of print, it can be ordered in large print from amazon.com and unabridged audio tape from Recorded Books, ISBN 0-7887-0645-4, at 1-800-638-1304.

My short fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, New England Review, Confrontation, Alaska Quarterly Review, Calyx,Crescent Review, So To Speak and other journals. I received Inkwell Magazine's Grand Prize for Fiction in 1999, and one of the stories in Girl in Hyacinth Blue has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.

Here is a little essay, "The Balm of Creative Endeavor," that Penguin asked me to write for their newsletter. I think it expresses who I am better than dry biographical facts.

"The Balm of Creative Endeavor"

Art, I am convinced, can emerge from extremity. In my case, long, uninterrupted days of treatment for lymphoma became a gift which resulted in Girl in Hyacinth Blue.

Wanting to fill my eyes and thoughts with beauty as I began chemotherapy, I pored over art books and absorbed the placidness of Monet's garden, the sparkling color of the Impressionists, the strength and solidity of Michelangelo's figures showing the titanic power of humans at one with God, Jan Vermeer's serene Dutch women bathed in gorgeous honey-colored light. These women took on added significance because I had a Dutch name. It was comforting, in case I had to leave this world, to find, through them, my heritage and place of origin. My conviction grew that art was stronger than death.

Vermeer painted only 35 canvases. There could have been another, I reasoned, which survived neglect, mistreatment, theft, natural catastrophe. Survival was foremost in my thinking. I constructed in my mind another painting incorporating elements he frequently used. Imagining my way into the lives of the people who might have owned the painting through the centuries resulted in imagining my way out of my own dire circumstances. As the stories took shape, I thought less and less of what I was going through, and more and more of the characters, lives, settings and circumstances I was creating. Creative endeavor can aid healing because it lifts us out of self-absorption and gives us a goal. Mine was to live long enough to finish this set of stories that reflected my sensibilities, so that my writing group of twelve dear friends might be given these and remember me and be proud of me in some small way.

When I was hospitalized for a month for a bone marrow transplant, I hoped they'd give me a private room because I intended to read my manuscript aloud over and over to polish the sentences, and that would drive any roommate batty. Conscious that one's thinking determines one's experience, and in the spirit of Dag Hammaarskjold's statement, "The only value of a life is its content for others," I gathered uplifting quotes to put on the windowed door of my room, facing outward to benefit family and friends going to visit other seriously ill patients, and so doctors and nurses tending to me would have a positive thought right before they saw me. Quotes like Milton's "The mind is its own place, and of itself can make a Heaven of Hell, or a Hell of Heaven," and Shakespeare's "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so," vitalized me and readied me for writing.

I took my journal of affirmations, a big dictionary and a thesaurus, beautiful new nightgowns in bright silks and flowered satin, colorful earrings and scarves to wrap my bald head, CD's of classical music, Gregorian chant, and Jessye Norman's Spirituals in Concert including "That Great Gettin' Up Morning" to help me rouse myself, and that moving "There is a Balm in Gilead." And, of course, art books. These composed my "armor of enrichment" as I went to do battle with Goliath.

I put a little sign on my hospital window high above Los Angeles: "Every morning lean thine arms awhile upon the windowsill of heaven and gaze upon the Lord. Then, with the vision in thy heart, turn strong to meet thy day." I wrote a love poem to my husband, and a Haiku series about my doctors and nurses. My Dutch characters became real to me and I loved them too. Nurses were amazed that I wasn't experiencing the horrible side effects predicted. Three times a day they shined a flashlight in my mouth to look for bloody sores. None there, folks! I had filled my mouth with love and beauty instead.

When I came home, I found myself drinking in the simplest things—the blessing of a refreshing breeze, the velvet texture of newly cut grass, a small child's lilting laughter. All the world seemed tender and rooted me in its loveliness. I embraced Henry James's writing advice to be a person upon whom nothing is lost. After recovery, my little book about people who lived their defining moments in the presence of a beautiful painting, as I did, has launched me into a new and healthy life. I am humbled with gratitude.

A CONVERSATION WITH SUSAN VREELAND

Artemisia tells her own story in this novel. Why did you choose a first person narrator?

I felt using the first person would allow me to get closer to Artemisia. With the first person, it's the reader's assumption that all descriptions, observations, feelings are hers rather than the narrator's. Not wanting a sense of a contemporary author looking back to that century, I felt the first person could provide more immediacy. Also, a first person voice would help to distinguish The Passion of Artemisia from a biography.

What are the difficulties involved in writing a fictional story that is based on real facts?

First, one must find the story one wishes to tell buried in the known history. Then, one must be willing to risk criticism when that story requires departure from fact. Writing historically based fiction is first a matter of discovery, then focus, then selectivity.

A person's real life involves a huge number of people, far too many to give focus to a novel. In order to avoid the narrative sprawl that would limit space for development of important characters, I had to eliminate Artemisia's brothers, sons, and many of the people for whom she painted in order to reveal her relationships with her father, husband, and daughter more deeply.

Conversely, archival and published history often don't record the relationships that are significant, so characters have to be invented to allow the subject to reveal intimate thoughts and feelings through interaction. For this purpose I invented the two nuns, her models, her neighbor, and Renata, her chambermaid.

Sometimes a fact conflicts with what an author needs a character to do. In truth, Artemisia was illiterate until midlife, her father considering it more important to teach her to paint than to read. In order to keep the nuns in the story while she was in Florence, I had to have her learn to read and write at the convent.

Another challenge is scenic and chronological accuracy. Clothing, food, currency, and transportation must all be researched in historical reference books. Still lifes and figure paintings helped with food and clothing. When dealing with locales as old and well known as Rome and Florence, I had to ascertain whether certain streets, architectural features, sculptures, and paintings were in the same place as they are today. Only a chance reference told me that the Scalinata, later dubbed the Spanish Steps, up to Santa Trinità dei Monti weren't yet built at the time Artemisia climbed the Pincian Hill. With permission of the Mother Superior of the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Santa Trinità, I moved the time forward that Santa Trinità was a convent of nuns rather than a monastery for brethren.

Sometimes nothing can be depended upon other than being there. I stayed in the convent of Santa Trinità in Rome to understand its layout and feel its calm in a bustling city, and I climbed the bell tower in Florence not just to see the view Artemisia and Pietro would have seen, but to describe the stairwell. Those on-site experiences are the treat of research. In truth, all of the research was enjoyable for me because I felt it directing me and giving the book depth and authority.

A danger of fact-based fiction is the discovery of some detail so delectable that one is tempted to deflect the narrative direction in order to include it. One must resist. Fiction is about character, not research.

In the novel you vividly depict the challenges of life as a painter and as a woman in seventeenth-century Europe. How did you research these details? In what ways did you use your research on the real Artemisia Gentileschi to inform your portrayal of her character?

In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf posits that a hypothetical, gifted sister of Shakespeare, wishing to write but prevented from a broad education by limited reading and restricted interaction in the world of ideas, would have been laughed at and ultimately would have been driven to despair. Woolf concludes: "Any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at [sic]." It wasn't difficult to move this imaginary gifted woman from the sixteenth century world of letters and theater to the seventeenth century world of paint and canvas. That process is the purview of the imagination.

Germaine Greer's seminal work, The Obstacle Race: Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work, (1979), lays down the difficulties female artists faced: competing obligations of marriage and motherhood; the restrictions against women seeking art training; male willingness to accept women's painting only as a benign drawing-room recreation but not as a professional activity for monetary gain, which might put a woman in the public eye; and perceptions of women's intellectual inability to tackle "serious," large-scale historical, mythical, or biblical subjects. Except for the good fortune of being born to a fine painter anxious to make money off of his talented daughter, these are the same obstacles Artemisia faced. It is a mark of her genius that she turned each one to an advantage.

The actual trial record, as recorded in Mary Garrard's work of art history, Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art, not only gave me a vivid account of the trial and her own statements, but gave me her voice, as did a letter to Galileo and other letters to her patrons, usually concerning payment. Guided by Garrard's scholarship, I surmised much about her attitudes and struggles directly from studying her paintings in comparison to paintings of the same subjects done by other painters of her time.

The rest is informed imagination.

Much of Artemisia's story is affected by the mores of her time and yet she is entirely sympathetic to a twentieth-century audience. How did you achieve this balance?

Artemisia achieved our sympathies for herself. Just think of what she did: defied the papal court by refusing to recant her testimony that she'd been raped; rejected the man who, according to seventeenth-century Italian culture, would restore her respectability with a marriage of reparation; made demands upon her father; left her husband for her art, and took her daughter with her; attended court events at the Medici's Pitti Palace without a husband or an escort; used her talent to give feminist interpretations of typical Baroque heroines; and ultimately supported herself by doing what she loved most in life. Any one of these actions would have made her sympathetic to a twentieth-century audience. Her perseverance and self-invention raised her to be a heroine of her own life composition. It's amazing to me that she hasn't been popularized as a feminist model before this.

Your first novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, focused on a Vermeer painting. The Passion of Artemisia is about another seventeenth-century painter. Are you drawn to artists from this century? Do you plan to write more novels that take place during this period?

In the case of Vermeer, his art drew me into his time period and his story. In the case of Artemisia, her story drew me to her art and time period. Both explorations have been rich with discovery of other art—painting, sculpture, architecture—and have opened my eyes to the bravery and charms of the Netherlands and the high drama of Italy.

Someday I would like to study the life and work of Judith Leyster, a Dutch painter and contemporary of Artemisia, with an eye to finding a story there. I had great fun in writing a humorous tale of two rustic Tuscans of the seventeenth century riding a donkey named Pellegrina to Rome, and using pecorino cheese to gain entrance to private collections of the world's great art, including the Vatican. It will appear in my next book, a collection of stories on the arts and artists, most of whom are nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European painters, Manet to Modigliani, told from the point of view of someone peripheral to their artistic lives: Monet's gardener at Giverny, the wet nurse for Berthe Morisot's baby, the orphaned daughter of Modigliani, the son of Van Gogh's postman in Arles, a boy who threw stones at Cezanne and his painting. I'm also working on a novel, Cedar Spirit, about the early twentieth-century Canadian painter, Emily Carr, a true original, whose work celebrates the British Columbian wilderness and its native populations and cultures. Her story allows me to explore issues of cross-cultural friendship, native spirituality, and the interrelatedness of nature, man, and God.

So, no. Regardless of how much I love the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, I won't limit myself to this time period, though most of the writing I see in my immediate future will be art-related. Art enriches my life too much to disregard all the possibilities it offers.

Do you have any favorite books or authors? Which ones have had a particularly powerful or formative effect on you as a writer?

I cherish certain parts of books by many authors and for a variety of reasons:

For the ability to draw me into an unfamiliar world and make me care deeply about its people, for making a bland, socially inept bungler sympathetic and appealing, The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

For lush sensuousness of scene under the cedar between innocent youth on the brink of the moral eruption of their heretofore unmarked lives, and for twists of plot, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

For natural and transparent expression of emotion, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce

For seemingly effortless, rolling description allowing me to see a moving, peopled landscape, All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

For the power to create loveable characters I want to throw my arms around, and honorable ones I want to emulate, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

For sophistication and complexity of narrative structure, for subtle connective tissue, and for sheer beauty of sentences, The Hours by Michael Cunningham

For density, language, cumulative imagery, and new discoveries every time I read it, Hamlet

And for the pure joy of storytelling, John Steinbeck.

Do you have a personal favorite among the many painters or paintings that you have seen and studied?

Of Johannes Vermeer's paintings, the one I love the most has the most nondescript name, Portrait of a Young Girl, less known than its more flashy cousin, Girl with a Pearl Earring. Against a nearly black backdrop, she looks directly at the viewer over her left shoulder, a graceful drape on her head, a pale dove gray shawl around her shoulder. Such small Dutch portraits in exotic rather than traditional costume were called "tronies." Her wide face glazed in subtle shadings has the smoothness of painted china. One feels that not only the skin is pure, but the young woman herself is pure. Her eyes set widely and her unimpassioned gaze seem to be saying, "It's just me. This is who I am"—a simple statement of self-knowledge and contentment. The effect is spare and exquisite—a testament to Vermeer's mastery, how he must have had to work to contain his adoration in order to execute his skill.

As soon as I write this, other paintings come to mind—Monet's of his first wife, Camille, in a hillside of red poppies or in their garden; Manet's Olympia that shocked Paris and intrigues me far more than Mona Lisa's face; Renoir's Girl with a Watering Can, rather too precious for some tastes, but entirely captivating to me; Gustav Klimt's decorative paintings of The Kiss andThe Embrace, which sweep me away with their tenderness—how he tilts her head back....

Yet, if I must choose, I go back to Vermeer's Young Girl, the face I held in my mind when I wrote his daughter's story in Girl in Hyacinth Blue.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Sometimes, it's too easy to assume that in centuries past, women were victims of gender prejudice and limitations. What negative events in Artemisia's experience were caused by her own thinking and actions? What better decisions could she have made? What advantages did Artemisia have as a woman?
     
  • Orazio is seen by Artemisia as the cause of her misfortunes. To what degree is this a fair assessment? How did the attitudes and strictures of the time influence him? Limit his alternatives? Blind him?
     
  • When Sister Graziela gives Artemisia the pearl earring, she also gives her some advice. How did she follow and not follow this advice? When it's her turn to give advice to Palmira, she reduces it to one line. Why did she make that choice?
     
  • In what ways did Galileo influence Artemisia? She said to him, "Even stone bears the footprints of many men." How does this apply to women and to her in particular?
     
  • To what extent was Graziela in control of her own fate? In what ways does the term "passion" apply to Graziela, Orazio, Galileo, and Artemisia? How is Michelangelo's Pietà echoed by the characters?
     
  • Artemisia told Palmira, "To be a painter, you've got to care for people, for their feelings." Why did she believe this? Is it true for all art in all time periods? In her time period?
     
  • How has Artemisia influenced the minor female characters—Umiliana, Fina, Vanna, Renata, Paola? What has she learned from them? How are they representatives of the time, or exceptions to the social mores?
     
  • Through what stages must Artemisia grow if she is to reconcile with her father? What experiences move her in that direction, or away from that direction? Did they love each other?
     
  • Artemisia asked her father, "Haven't you ever felt like shouting, 'Look. Look and let this beauty transform your heart'?" Has this happened to her? What beauties?
     
  • Of all her paintings, which one(s) was she most passionate about? Which one(s) do you favor? Hypothetically, if Artemisia, the woman with the same history, lived in the nineteenth century, what do you think she'd be painting? What would her style(s) be like? If she could have seen the scope of art history after her as well as before, which artists would she have admired and why? Which ones do you?
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 12, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    I really enjoyed this book. It is very well-written. A nice read

    I really enjoyed this book. It is very well-written. A nice read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2012

    Amazing

    Susan's artful & sensitive use of language shared with me the soul of Artemesia. I loved every paragraph!

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  • Posted March 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Audio Production of an Italian Female Artist in the 1600s

    Without question, Vreeland has done a lot of research, and it shows. Influenced by her father's art and the controversial Caravaggio, Artemisia's paintings bring to life with vivid talent some of the darker moments from the Bible and historical legend. Absorbing and richly described, The Passion of Artemisia is a beautiful, and sometimes gritty, insight into Baroque Italy's artists, patrons, and even religion. Artemisia's life is visually detailed by Vreeland, as descriptive and thought-provoking as Gentileschi's actual paintings. The end result is a most satisfying read, of an engaging and tangible view into life for a female artist during one of the most influential times of Italian art.

    Those who are interested in art, the process of mixing paints and applying to canvas, and how a painting is translated from the mind to the canvas, will truly enjoy this book. If you liked Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, then you will most likely enjoy The Passion of Artemisa by Susan Vreeland. I look forward to the next audio production of Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue, also narrated by Gigi Bermingham, and also focusing on art.

    Thoughts on the Audio
    This is my first audio book that I actually enjoyed! Many of you know that I've struggled with finding a good one. Vreeland's story of this historical figure felt genuine and thorough, and the usage of the Italian language peppered throughout is wonderfully engaging and kept me enthralled. In fact, this is one of those books where I believe (based on the overall professional production of it) that I would much prefer the audio to the printed version.

    Part of my enjoyment of this audio production was Gigi Bermingham's lyrical and fluid narration. When reviewing her background, it's no surprise that she is also registered with the Screen Actors Guild and has done film and television. Effectively maneuvering through the Italian language with an ease of an Italian born in Rome, Bermingham carried the story effortlessly. There was a clear and distinct voice to each of the characters, men included, and never once did I feel distracted. Combined with musical interludes introducing chapters, this audio production was exactly what I needed to feel more comfortable with listening to books.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    Amazing

    I was forced to read this book for my summer reading list, but i fell in love with it. It's a romantical rollercoaster. If you are a big romance or history buff, i highly reccomend this book. I reccomend this book to you even if you don't like romance or history, becuase by the end of this book you will.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully written, elegantly styled

    I loved this story both for the elegant writing style and the depth of insight into an artist's thoughts. The author brought art to life through the conversations and travels of the characters. The reader stylized each character with different accents and voices.....Wonderful!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    Very well written, interesting read. I highly recommend it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2005

    Surprisingly good

    I actually bought this book on the bargain table because I read Girl in Hyacinth Blue and I was curious. I was amazed...it was much better than the first I read by Ms. Vreeland. It is a fantastic recreation of the time period featuring cameos by Cosimo de Medici, Galileo, and others. Ms. Vreeland writes so you feel the emotions the Artemisia feels and you can almost see the paintings as they are painted. I loved it!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2005

    Susan Vreeland keeps getting better

    Susan Vreeland just keeps getting better. I felt this book was even better then Girl in Hyacinth Blue. The beginning was a bit dark, but picked up speed in a hurry and kept me reading. Only weakness in her writing is that she does not transition very well. Moving from one time or place to another. Sometimes hard to grasp what age Palmiera was, or where they were. One chapter ending and suddenly four years have passed. Hard to do using that narrative. But overall it was a very satisfying book, and one that I would recommend. Looking forward to S Vreeland's next books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2004

    Amazing

    I was required to read this book for school, but after I started it I could not put it down. I had all summer to read it, but I finished before school was even out. That says something!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2004

    Vreeland's Artemisia: Incandescent

    Vreeland's character of Artemisia brings to life a 400 year old story, revising the myth surrounding women in art. Here is a strong woman full of passion, overcoming adversity to fulfill her basic necessity: the need to paint. Her visions were innovative, and her will unbreakable. Vreeland captures the harsh reality of the patriarchy and displays humanity at its finest and its worst. It is under this construct that Artemisia struggled, and we struggle today, with the constant purgatory of the artist versus Woolf¿s ¿angel in the house¿. This book is a worthy historical account written in the truest emotions of fiction. Brava, Susan Vreeland.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2004

    Fascinating

    The idea of writeing a novel through the inspiration of a painting is a 'novel' concept. This book is a wonderful read. I would definitally recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2003

    An Author To Discover

    Outstanding! Mrs. Vreeland knows drama and history and philosophy and life and she knows how to write. You will get well passed page 300 before you find even a word, let alone a scene or a conversation, a thought or a feeling, that you are sure cannot exist in the time of Artemesia. She is an author to discover and once discovered how can help but want to read all of her books?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2003

    A trip back in time

    i enjoyed the Passion of Artemisia, I've never been very interested in art, but this book would definitely make me look a little closer at paintings...for info Vreeland's otehr books, got to www.svreeland.com

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2003

    Believable, engrossing, and educational

    This book is a true one-of-a-kind, Vreeland narrates with a truly passionate voice. I find myself perusing the pages of her book time after time, never tiring and always gaining something new every time I return to her Rennaisance. If I could, I'd give this book three thumbs up!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2003

    Well written and very enjoyable

    My book club read this and we all enjoyed it very much. I liked its focus on art, factual and informative. If I had been to Italy or spoke italian, I would have enjoyed even more. It is apparent the author knows art intimately and she has a passion to share it through her writings.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2003

    Wonderful book about an amazing artist

    I bought this book after a friend of mine told me a little bit about Artemisia. I have to admit that I am not particularly interested in art, but this book changed some of that. You don't have to be an art expert to apreciate Artemisia's work. This book reflects some of the feelings Artemisia conveys through her painting. She was a strong, independent woman and, as a woman trying to keep it all together, I can identify with some of the issues that arise out of her circumstances. I think most women today will identify with Artemisia. What makes this book so good is that it shows that some things have changed and others haven't, but at least we're making progress. Artemisia is an inspiration.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2003

    Wow! What a beautiful story!!!

    I enjoy historical fiction and this book did not disappoint! I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed Girl in Hyacinth Blue! It was a beautiful, well-written story with vivid characters. I found myself engrossed in this book and unable to put it down! At the end of this book I was sorry that it was finished. I only wish that the author could crank out books of this quality as fast as I can read them!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2002

    A trip to Florence

    "Passion of Artemesia" takes you through the life of the painters of her time. I thought it much better written than 'Girl in Blue' though I did enjoy that book also. Closer to "Girl with a Pearl Earring" Will reccomend to my book Club.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2002

    Wonderful Artistic Journey

    As the best-selling author of GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE, Susan Vreeland once again stuns readers with a lyrical depiction of a woman destined to follow her artistic dreams. As an early seventeenth century artist under the tutelage of her artist father, Orazio Gentileschi, Artemisia experiences tremendous humiliation as she faces her rapist in papal court. Though Agostino Tassi, a colleague of Orazio¿s, had raped Artemisia, she is forced to endure a degrading public examination to prove her accusations. With her ruined reputation, Artemisia leaves Rome to wed Pietro Stiattesi and move to Florence. <br><br> Together, Pietro and Artemisia indulge in the art of painting, but unfortunately for Pietro, it is Artemisia who gets the most recognition, first with a commission from the nephew of the famous Michelangelo, and later from Cosimo de Medici. Though Artemisia and Pietro have a daughter, Palmira, Pietro becomes resentful when Artemisia gains admission to the Accademia dell¿ Arte del Disegno before he does. <br><br> The all-encompassing descriptive prose leads the reader back into seventeenth century Italy, following Artemisia and her daughter as they journey to Genoa, Venice, and come full circle back to Rome. With the incredible artistic backdrop of the timeless treasures of these cities, the author often makes a religious connection to the magnificent works depicted there. <br><br> And for anyone who ever wanted an eyewitness view into an artist¿s soul, this novel is the perfect venue. Even a non-artist can begin to understand the depth of emotion and lifetime experiences that go into an artist¿s creativity. Most enduring though, is Artemisia¿s triumph in a time when women were treated in a most inferior manner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2002

    amzing

    A must read book about the struggles of a female artist in renaissance Italy.

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