“As long as I live I will have control over my being.” ~ Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia is considered to be one of finest female painters of the Baroque period. Initially she was trained by her father, a well known painter by the name of Orazio Gentileschi. When Artemisia was denied admission to an art university Orazio asked his friend, Agostino Tassi to take over as her tutor.
While tutoring her Tassi attempted to get Artemisia along on multiple occasions. When he did, he raped her. He then proceeded to coerce her to have sex with him on multiple occasions under the guise that he would marry her. When they were discovered he refused to come through on his word forcing Orazio to take him to court.
The transcripts survived and the sad truth is that in two centuries rape cases have not changed. There was a seven month trial in which time Artemisia accused Tassi. Tassi said she wanted it and that she was no virgin. Artemisia of course refuted the statements. He even went so far as to accuse her of lying because she was a bad artist. There was a series of witnesses and even an exam by midwives to see how long Artemisia’s hymen had been broken. Finally witnesses came forward telling of Tassi’s boasting at the expense of Artemisia. That in conjunction with a previous incest conviction for sleeping with his sister-in-law and arraigning for his wife to be murdered earned him a guilty sentence.
Artemisia didn’t let the rape break her. She used it to drive her to make amazing art. She went on to become the protege of Michelangelo the younger, became a member of the Academy of design and spent time in both France, Florence and Naples. She had multiple patrons through her successful career. Even managing to be a single mother living on her own during a time when women were barely seen as anything other than property.
For books to inspire the artist in you take a look at these:
1. The Passion of Artemisia
2. Leonardo’s Swans
3. Portrait of an Unknown Woman