Monday, April 11, 2011
The Soul of a Woman
"Judith Slaying Holofernes" by Artemisia Gentileschi
"I shall show what a woman is capable of.
You will find Caesar's courage in the soul of a woman."
~ Artemisia Gentileschi, 1593-1652/53
Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome to an Italian painter in 1593, a time which forbade women from working in a profession, particularly art. Due to her outstanding talent, her father, a successful Baroque painter, trained her anyway. Later Artemisia apprenticed under her father's artist friend, Agostino Tassi, who repeatedly raped her. When Tassi failed to marry her, the affair was taken to court as the first known public rape case. The trial ended without a clear verdict so the humiliated young Artemisia went to Florence where her father arranged a marriage contract with a Florentine who would allow her to continue working. There she received a number of large commissions and was the only woman to be admitted to the Accademia del Disegno.
Despite the cultural taboo of a working woman and her personal tarnished reputation, Artemisia was one of the first women to become a professional painter. She also became a women's rights advocate rebelling against the gender restrictions of her day.
The above painting by Artemisia is especially interesting as many think it is a reference to her being repeatedly raped. Her sensitive paintings, her dogged determination, her dramatic life story and her "Caesar's courage" do, indeed, reveal a remarkable soul of a woman in history...leaving women artists today quite a courageous legacy to stand on!