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Why Artemisia Gentileschi Is the Bravest Painter in History

Painter, wife, mother, lover and great warrior. Artemisia Gentileschi is an icon symbol of feminism. In fact, she was one of the first women to rebel against rape bringing her rapist to court, although at that time this was considered regrettable for a woman. However, all her life she was at the centre of controversy and gossip.

artemisia gentileschi

Painter, wife, mother, lover and great warrior. Artemisia Gentileschi is an icon symbol of feminism. In fact, she was one of the first women to rebel against rape bringing her rapist to court. However, all her life she was at the centre of controversy and gossip.

Who Was Artemisa Gentileschi?

Her life was marked by a terrible drama, a rape, but also by a deserved success as a painter. Born in Rome in 1593 Artemisia Gentileschi was the daughter of Horace, painter and friend of Caravaggio.

The young woman embarked on her father’s career, frequented artists and painted in a sublime way.

A terrible scandal has clouded the life and success of Artemisia Gentileschi, deeply marking her life and her art. Her father had always tried to protect her by keeping her confined at home. This, however, did not stop Agostino Tassi, painter and friend of her father, who abused her helped by Tuzia, a family friend, and despite Artemisia‘s firm refusals.

The Rape Trial

The girl was raped when she was 18. Horace reported it to the authorities after about a year. A rape trial, at the time, was regrettable for a woman. From that moment on, in fact, Artemisa, despite being a victim, was considered no good. At the trial there is talk of a reparatory marriage, but Tassi has already a wife. The story, however, remains unclear. Horace also asks for compensation for the theft of some of his paintings. However, the real victim is still Artemisia. In fact, after the rape, she had agreed to Tassi’s requests only because she believed that he would marry her.

During this surreal process, the young girl also underwent physical torture. The guards in fact tied her hands with ropes. Flat-headed screws crushed her fingers and seriously injured her hands. With this dramatic torture Artemisia would have risked losing her fingers forever, which is terrible for a painter. She, however, wanted to see her rights recognized. So despite the pain, she did not retract her testimony, answering “it’s true, it’s true”.

However, her honor had gone forever. They accused her of incestuous relations with her father, of having numerous lovers and inappropriate conduct. Tuzia herself corroborated with her testimony all the slanders. Tassi was imprisoned for eight months, then accused of theft, debt, sodomy, incest with his sister-in-law. He had also planned the murder of his wife, who then managed to escape.

After the trial, Artemisia had to leave Rome to marry the Florentine artist Pierantonio Stiattesi. It was a marriage to silence the accusations.

Artemisia Gentileschi as a Painter

Despite these turbulent events, Artemisia showed all her talent. She moved to Florence after the wedding and was the first woman to enter the academy of drawing arts. She met Cosimo II de’ Medici and Galileo Galilei. In 1621 she left her husband and returned to Rome with her two daughters, but did not have the success she had hoped for. She then moved to Naples where she finally found her balance following Caravaggio’s style.

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