The Passion of Artemisia

The Passion of Artemisia

4.4 34
by Susan Vreeland
     
 

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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…  See more details below

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.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
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.
San Francisco Chronicle
Vreeland's remarkable ability...makes this novel an accomplished work of art.
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.
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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101200278
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/31/2002
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
243,842
File size:
385 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

1

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."

—from The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland, Copyright © January 2002, Viking Press, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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What People are saying about this

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

Meet the Author

Coming out of the Louvre for the first time in 1971, dizzy with new love, I stood on Pont Neuf and made a pledge to myself that the art of this newly discovered world in the Old World would be my life companion. Never had history been more vibrant, its voices more resonating, its images more gripping. On this first trip to Europe, I felt myself a pilgrim: To me, even secular places such as museums and ruins were imbued with the sacred. Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, religious and social history--I was swept away with all of it, wanting to read more, to learn languages, to fill my mind with rich, glorious, long-established culture wrought by human desire, daring, and faith. I wanted to keep a Gothic cathedral alive in my heart. My imagination exploded with the gaiety of the Montmartre dancers at Moulin de la Galette, the laborer whose last breath in his flattened chest was taken under the weight of a stone fallen from the Duomo under construction in Florence, the apprentice who cut himself preparing glass for the jeweled windows of Sainte Chapelle, the sweating quarry worker aching behind his crowbar at Carrara to release a marble that would become the Pietà.

In a fashion I couldn't imagine then, I have been true to this pledge. I have brought to life the daughter of the Dutch painter Vermeer who secretly yearned to paint the Delft she loved. I've given voice to the Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, raped at seventeen by her painting teacher, the first woman to paint large scale figures from history and scripture previously reserved for men. On my own continent, I've entered deep British Columbian forests with Emily Carr, whose love for native people took her to places proper white women didn't go. My imagination has followed Modigliani's daughter around Paris searching for shreds of information about the father she never knew. I've imagined myself a poor wetnurse, bereaved of her own baby so that a rich woman, Berthe Morisot, might paint. I've taken my seventeenth century Tuscan shoemaker to Rome to have his longed-for religious experience under the Sistine ceiling. I've followed Renoir's models to cabarets and boat races, to war and elopement, to the Folies-Bergère and luncheons by the Seine.



Now some facts as to how I arrived there: After graduating from San Diego State University, I taught high school English in San Diego beginning in 1969 and retired in 2000 after a 30-year career. Concurrently, I began writing features for newspapers and magazines in 1980, taking up subjects in art and travel, and publishing 250 articles. I ventured into fiction in 1988 with What Love Sees, a biographical novel of a woman's unwavering determination to lead a full life despite blindness. The book was made into a CBS television movie starring Richard Thomas and Annabeth Gish. My short fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, New England Review, Confrontation, Alaska Quarterly Review, Manoa, Connecticut Review, Calyx, Crescent Review, So To Speak and elsewhere.



My art-related fiction, products of my pledge on Pont Neuf:
Girl in Hyacinth Blue, 1999, and a Hallmark Hall of Fame production in 2003, tracing an alleged Vermeer painting through the centuries revealing its influence on those who possessed it.

The Passion of Artemisia, 2002, disclosing the inner life of Artemisia Gentileschi, Italian Baroque painter who empowered her female heroines with her own courage.
The Forest Lover, 2004, following the rebel Canadian painter, Emily Carr, seeking the spiritual content of her beloved British Columbia by painting its wild landscape and its native totemic carvings.

Life Studies, 2005, stories revealing Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters from points of view of people who knew them, and showing that ordinary people can have profound encounters with art.

Luncheon of the Boating Party, 2007, illuminating the vibrant, explosive Parisian world of la vie moderne surrounding Renoir as he creates his masterwork depicting the French art of living.



Selected awards:


New York Times Best Sellers: Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Book Sense Pick, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 2007.

Book Sense Year's Favorites, for The Passion of Artemisia, 2002.

Book Sense Book of the Year Finalist, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, 1999.

International Dublin Literary Award, Nominee, for Girl in Hyacinth Blue, 2001.

Independent Publisher Magazine, Storyteller of the Year, for Girl in Hyacinth Blue, 1999.

Foreword Magazine's Best Novel of the Year, for Girl in Hyacinth Blue,1999.

San Diego Book Awards' Theodor Geisel Award and Best Novel of the Year, 1999, for Girl; 2002 for Artemisia, and 2005 for Life Studies.


My work has been translated into twenty-five languages.



So, what have I learned from all of this? That entering the mind and heart of painters has taught me to see, and to be more appreciative of the beauties of the visible world. That I can agree with Renoir when he said, "I believe that I am nearer to God by being humble before his splendor (Nature)." That people are hungry for real lives behind the paintings. That readers' lives have been enriched, their sensibilities sharpened, even their goals for their own creative endeavors given higher priorities in their lives.



And especially this: Thanks to art, instead of seeing only one world and time period, our own, we see it multiplied and can peer into other times, other worlds which offer windows to other lives. Each time we enter imaginatively into the life of another, it's a small step upwards in the elevation of the human race. Consider this: Where there is no imagination of others' lives, there is no human connection. Where there is no human connection, there is no chance for compassion to govern. Without compassion, then loving kindness, human understanding, peace all shrivel. Individuals become isolated, and the isolated can turn resentful, narrow, cruel; they can become blinded, and that's where prejudice, holocausts, terrorism and tragedy hover. Art--and literature--are antidotes to that.




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Brief Biography

Hometown:
San Diego, California
Date of Birth:
January 20, 1946
Place of Birth:
Racine, Wisconsin
Education:
San Diego State University
Website:
http://www.svreeland.com

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The Passion of Artemisia 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Lizbiz5396 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is very well-written. A nice read!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Susan's artful & sensitive use of language shared with me the soul of Artemesia. I loved every paragraph!
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NatalieTahoe More than 1 year ago
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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sydney_the_student More than 1 year ago
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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SuzieQNJ More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
Very well written, interesting read. I highly recommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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?
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!