Title: The Passion of Artemisia
Author: Susan Vreeland
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from my personal library
Audiobook reader: Gigi Bermingham
First line: My father walked beside me to give me courage, his palm touching gently the back laces of my bodice.
The Passion of Artemisia is a must-read for any lover of historical fiction, art history, women’s fiction, and all of the above.
Artemisia Gentileschi was a painter of the early Baroque style. She lived in the early 1600s, and her art was greatly influenced by Caravaggio. Her father recognized her talent as a teenager, and hired another artist, Agostino Tassi, to teach her. Tassi raped her, and when the charge was brought to the church court, Artemisia was tortured to verify the truth of her accusation. This experience, and how it changed her relationship with her father, are central to the story that Vreeland tells.
Vreeland takes a few minor liberties with Artemisia’s narrative, but the major points of her story are intact. The author goes far beyond simply presenting a history of the artist, though, and uses Artemisia’s story to illustrate the conflict between being a woman and having a vocation, a passion. Artemisia continually feels the struggle between being a wife and mother and giving herself over to her art.
The descriptions of Italy, the palaces, the art – Vreeland knows how to write just enough details to help you see and experience the place and time of the story. The description never bogs down the story, which moves along, each stage of Artemisia’s life centered around a city and her art. One of the most amazing things about listening to this audiobook is being able to view the works of art mentioned at Wikipedia.
Audio notes: Vreeland’s masterful writing is served well by the reader, Gigi Bermingham.
This is a re-post of a review I wrote a couple of years ago.