Written in 17th century journals left to a widow, Cornelia Stein, Artemisia’s story unfolds. Raped by her tutor, forced to submit to a gynaecological examination to ensure she is telling the truth, and then tortured in court, Artemisia Gentileschi becomes infamous.
Reading her story in contemporary London, an elderly widow, Cornelia Stein, becomes fascinated by Artemisia and is determined to donate the writings to a museum. But news of the journals leaks out and Cornelia finds herself enmeshed in a feeding frenzy as the dealers circle.
And so the lives of two women – one from 17th Century, one from 21st Century – mesh. Artemisia talks of sex, of loss, of death, as she fights with her patrons and protects her family, and at the same time Cornelia Stein finds herself under real threat as she defies the male bastions of the art world to ensure Artemisia’s legacy.
In the time of #MeToo and Women’s Rights, Artemisia Gentileschi’s story will resonate with every woman now. She might have been dismissed for centuries, but no longer.
The last words belong to Artemisia: ‘I will show you what a woman can do.’
When I saw the description for this book it really interested me and I knew I had to read it, at this point I didn’t realise that Artemisia was a real person. I just thought this book was a fictitious story. Yes, I know probably most of you reading this are aghast that I had never heard of her. But, art history has never been my strong point.
When the book arrived the cover didn’t grab me. Why have they put an old fashioned picture on the front I thought. Remember I had no clue who Artemisia was. So, I started having reservations about the story. Well let me tell you that the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is very true.
From the first page you are reeled into the life of Artemisia and thrust into life in 17th century Italy. The sights, sounds and smells are conveyed brilliantly by Connor that you actually feel that you are there.
Yes, there had been the notorious rape trial, but that seemed remote on paper, just some terrible historical event. But, now Artemisia Gentileschi was becoming real to her. She wanted to know her story, wanted to read every detail, to devour everything Edward had discovered.
Once I’d understood that Artemisia wasn’t a fictitious character and was actually a real life person who had lived through these experiences, I started to really appreciate the story more. Artemisia was definitely a woman ahead of her time, we are now living in the age of #metoo movement and here is a story of a woman who worked in a male dominated sector and was tortured for speaking out about the atrocities that was inflicted upon her.
What I enjoyed about this story was the comparison between Artemisia in the 17th century and that of Cornelia in the 21st century. Two women who spanned centuries but had so many similar personality traits.
As she made herself tea, she felt transported, almost as though she was standing next to Artemisia and Edward in the little coretto on that blisteringly hot day in Naples.
You don’t have to be a lover of history or art to find this story fascinating. It’s a story of life, the struggles, relationships, love and friendship. Written beautifully this story will entrance you.
My father owned me. And his property had been spoiled, so he wanted recompense. His daughter’s virginity had been taken and I was to prove it was rape. Prove it, before all of Rome…I told the truth – but my father never did. He was angrier with Tassi for stealing a painting than for stealing his daughter’s virtue.
Every woman relies on someone to see her worth. We all need the mirror of love to be happy.