It is the early 1600s in Rome. Artemisia Gentileschi, a young and upcoming artist, has suffered rape at the hands of her teacher and father's friend, and now has to endure the horrors of a public trial in which she is physically exposed during an examination to determine if she is a virgin or did in fact, suffer rape. With nothing but a thin screen to separate her from the attendees in court, seventeen-year-old Artemisia is poked and prodded, and humiliated. Following this horrifying introduction to the public Roman art scene, Artemisia enters into an arranged marriage with another painter and moves to Florence. Artemisia is much more talented than her husband and while the relationship begins in a playful and hopeful manner resulting in a child, it eventually is clear that her husband cannot handle the fame and talent that his wife possesses. She soon becomes more respected in Florence for her study and work. With her marriage failing, Artemisia begins to travel to different cities within Italy, pursuing her art and working with her patrons, successfully making her mark on the Italian art scene.
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.
I am a fan of all things Italian. I love the culture, the people, the language, the food. To be able to go to Italy twice, with one of them being my honeymoon a year and a half ago, has been truly a fortunate blessing. Being able to revisit Italy through art, pictures, and books continues to keep me in love with Italy, and Vreeland's stunning story of this historical figure has been a fascinating walk into a true passion of mine. I did do some additional research, and Artemisia Gentileschi certainly was influenced by Caravaggio. (When I went to Rome, seeing Caravaggio's painting in person at the San Luigi dei Francesi literally made me cry). This graphic painting below of "Judith Beheading Holofernes" by Gentileschi is reviewed in detail in the book - the colors and actions are incredibly physically detailed, which definitely identifies the "Caravaggisti" influence. The painting below is graphic, however when compared to Caravaggio in the link provided above, you will see similarities with the physiology and movement, the colors, and the internal lighting that seems to emanate from within the painting.
|Judith Beheading Holofernes|
This is my first entry into the Italy in Books Reading Challenge hosted by Book After Book. I so thank her for hosting this challenge! Grazie cosí tanto, il mio amico! (Thank you so much, my friend!)
Caffé e Una Donna del Libro