This is a proud successor to Susan Vreeland's first art-inspired
novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue. This time the artist, rather then the
painting, is the focus of her work, and although Artemisia
Gentileschi lived in the 17th century, the passions and conflicts
she experiences have a resounding relevance today. This is not
merely the account of a life, it is a work about the choices women
face between career and family, the jealousy of a husband who sees
his wife achieving more recognition than he does, the misogynistic
nature of a male-dominated society. But above all, it is the story
of one woman's rise to greatness despite enduring a humiliating
personal tragedy, and how she uses that tragedy to inspire some of
her greatest paintings. The novel opens during the trial of
Agostino Tassi, a colleague employed by Artemisia's father Orazio
Gentileschi, to teach his young daughter the finer points of
perspective. Tassi rapes the 18-year-old Artemisia before embarking
on an affair, promising he will marry her. Artemisia is publicly
humiliated and tortured during the trial, suffering a brutal
physical examination in front of the (male) court and being cruelly
tortured. Branded a whore, she is quickly married off to a
struggling painter, Pietro Stiattesi, and they begin a new life
together in Florence. Although Artemisia enjoys some degree of
contentment in her new life, her relationship with her husband is
only mildly affectionate; even the birth of their daughter,
Palmira, cannot conceal their growing estrangement. When Artemisia
wins the patronage of the powerful Medici family and becomes the
first woman to be admitted to the Accademia dell'Arte, Pietro's
jealousy and humiliation know no bounds and the offer of a
lucrative commission in Genoa is the final straw. He refuses to
accompany her, and Artemisia sets off for the next stage of her
life with only her young daughter. Vreeland's book pulses with
drama and intrigue. Yet this is not an action-packed novel but a
brilliantly vibrant work, as rich and absorbing as any of
Artemisia's famous paintings. The sights, smells and tastes of
Italy leap from the page, and the descriptions of Artemisia's
unashamed, unfettered joy in her painting have a moving intensity.
This is indeed a novel about Artemisia's passion; passion not only
for her work, but passion in its original, Biblical sense of
suffering, for without suffering there would have been no Judith
and Holofernes and no Lucrezia. Vreeland has written a compelling
and moving account of Artemisia's life which will inspire many
readers to turn to the paintings and discover for themselves the
real woman who poured her tragedies onto canvas. (Kirkus UK)
From extraordinary highs - patronage by the Medicis, friendship
with Galileo and, most importantly of all, beautiful and
outstandingly original paintings - to rape by her father's
colleague, torture by the Inquisition, life-long struggles for
acceptance by the artistic Establishment, and betrayal by the men
she loved, Artemisia was a bold and brilliant woman who lived as
she wanted, and paid a high price. Now Susan Vreeland, author of
the acclaimed GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE, brings her story to passionate
and vivid life.
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