February 28, 2003

The Passion of Artemisia, by Susan Vreeland

I thought about this book a lot. I am in awe of how the author created such a complete picture of a human being with such spare prose. It's not a very long book and yet it felt like I had read it for weeks instead of a couple days.

Artemisia is an actual historical person, Artemisia Gentileschi, who painted during the Baroque period of art in Italy. She was the first woman to be admitted to the Accademia dell' Arte in Florence, knew and corresponded with Galileo, had Cosimo De Medici II as her patron and supported herself and her children with her painting. She was also raped by her father's co-worker and tortured in court to verify her accusation. Apparently, if a woman didnít recant her story while in extreme pain, she really was telling the truth.

What Vreeland does is take the bare bones of her story and turn it into a searching, thoughtful story about the struggle of a woman who must choose between her personal happiness and her God given gifts. Artemisia is passionate about painting but she suffers for her passion. The title is double entendre. I actually looked up the word "passion" to make sure I wasnít imagining things. She cannot deny her ability to paint but as a woman it costs her the men she loves to continue with her art. Particularly touching was her struggle watching her daughter grow up to have conventional desires and aims in life, denying her mother's gifts.

I recommend this book highly. It is packaged like a "chick" book but the content is so much better than the impression the cover makes. By the time I was done, I knew Artemisia like a friend.

Posted by Deb English at February 28, 2003 04:41 PM