Artemisia by Anna Banti
(European Women Writers)

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Synopsis

Artemisia Gentileschi, born in 1598, the daughter of an esteemed painter, taught art in Naples and painted the great women of Roman and biblical history: Esther, Judith, Cleopatra, Bathsheba. She also painted the rich and royal, but her wealthy male patrons wanted admiration while her women models wanted disguise. This woman, who had been violated in her youth and reviled as a rap victim in a public trial before going off to heretical England, who was rejected by her father and later abandoned by her husband and misunderstood by her daughter, who could not read or write but who could only paint—this woman was one of the first modern times to uphold through her work and deeds the right of women to pursue careers compatible with their talents and on an equal footing with men.

Artemisia lives again in Anna Banti's novel, which was first published to critical acclaim in Italy in 1947 (Banti was the pseudonym of Lucia Lopresti, 1895-1978). Recognized as a consummate stylist, she was one of the most successful women writers in Italy before the resurgence of the feminist movement. Although Artemisia describes life in seventeenth-century Rome, Florence, and Naples, the time setting of the novel is, in a deeper sense, a historical, merging as it does the experience of a woman dead for three centuries with the terrors of World War II experienced by the author. Shirley D'Ardia Caracciolo's English translation of Banti's novel skillfully renders its complexity and poignancy as a study of courage.

 

About Anna Banti

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The translator, Shirley D'Ardia Caracciolo, whose afterword discusses the historical background and artistry of "Artemisia," lives in Ireland. Susan Sontag's books include "The Benefactor and Against Interpretation and Other Essays."
 
Published December 1, 1988 by University of Nebraska Press. 216 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Arts & Photography. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Artemisia

London Review of Books

Soon – Artemisia’s distress, and Banti’s, are too keen – the anguished first-person voice of the author makes way for the voice of Artemisia, and then gives itself permission to become intermittently, then for longer stretches, the third-person voice that narrates the painter’s life.

| Read Full Review of Artemisia (European Women Wri...

Spectator Book Club

Not only was Artemisia almost the only woman artist of her age, but while still in her teens she was raped by a fellow-artist, and again did what no woman had done before, standing up in court and testifying against her attacker.

Mar 27 2004 | Read Full Review of Artemisia (European Women Wri...

Spectator Book Club

This is not the only historical reality Artemisia draws on.

Mar 27 2004 | Read Full Review of Artemisia (European Women Wri...

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