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The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

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. (see)

In my deep interest with history and ancient art, I could not pass up reading the books of Susan Vreeland whose titles are reminiscent of Tracy Chevalier's (most are related to art and women) but I shall not compare them. The Passion of Artemisia is the first of her books that I came across and one I wouldn't part with. It is a gem, period.

In this historical fiction, it explored Gentileschi's passion and struggle on pursuing painting, inspired by her father, Orazio Gentileschi and the contrasting strokes of the famed Caravaggio; especially when she painted a Judith (Judith Slaying Hornofernes). But it is a far rougher road for a woman in 1500s. 

A woman's passion, in the olden days, could be a double-edged sword that could work for or against her and in this book, it shows how bitter the price is. More than that though, it is a woman's tenacity and strength that could also deliver her and free her from haunted pasts.

Vreeland's portrayal of Artemisia is wrought with poignancy and vivid bold colors just like her paintings. There is that hint of desolation in me when Artemisia almost sympathized herself of sharing pain with Lucretia. Ah, what lengths a woman just go through~. But I like the glimpse of the threads of friendship between her and Galileo who at that time is also facing his own battle about the facts of the universe. In a way, they understood each other for they've found themselves in a same place; standing firm upon their beliefs.

Title: The Passion of Artemisia
Author: Susan Vreeland
Genre: Historical, Art
Published: 2002
Publisher: Penguin Books
My rating: ♨♨♨♨  (4 cups - Full of beautiful prose and well-research. A bittersweet story but what is unmistakable is the passion and strength of Artemisia which remains with you in the end.)


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