A young woman, raped by her painting teacher, struggles to overcome her abuse and social isolation as she strives for success as female painter. Artemisia Gentileschi is an Italian woman wrongfully accused of being a loose woman after her forced rape. She is shunned by the Roman townspeople and cruelly perceived as a prostitute. Artemisia endures harsh accusations and insinuations about her relationship with her painting teacher, Agostino Tassi. She suffers through a papal court ordered physical examination and application of the sibille, a torture apparatus designed to destroy women's fingers. Agostino is friends with her father, Orazio Gentileschi. Although Artemisia tries to attain her father's support, he will not stand up for her in court. He is a painter, and his livelihood and patrons would suffer if he spoke out against Agostino. Orazio decides to marry Artemisia off to Pietro Antonio, a Florence painter, in the hopes that her life will improve. Once Artemisia escapes from Rome, her life significantly improves. Her eyes are opened to the beauty of life, and she begins to seriously work on her passion for painting. Early in her marriage Artemisia is content, and she soon gives birth to a daughter, Palmira. She hones her craft and begins to dream of finding rich patrons and becoming the first woman painter in the Accademia del Disegno. Marriage strains form when her skills as a painter land her the attention of Cosimo de' Medici II. He commissions her to paint portraits, and he provides her with significant income. Pietro is not recognized as a highly skilled painter and his commissions bring in meager income. Pietro regularly escapes from home and does not return for days at a time. Artemisia struggles with this strain as she works to raise Palmira as a proper, respectful girl. She does not have much contact with her father as a result of his non-supportive behavior. She has regular flashbacks about her rape and cruel treatment, and she tries to isolate herself from anyone who knew her in Rome. Her only friends from Rome are two nuns from a convent. They provide her with strength and support as she works her way up in society. After Artemisia discovers Pietro was unfaithful, she escapes with Palmira to Genoa. For several years she paints for a patron family but runs away after learning of Agostino's return. Back in Rome she pushes forth with her image as a well-known woman painter and casts aside further accusations. After Palmira marries, Artemisia finally decides to visit her father in London when she hears he is ill. They pour out their frustrations and troubles, and they regain their close relationship. Artemisia holds her father as he fades away. She looks into the future with renewed determination and vows to paint with true passion.
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Best part of story, including ending:
I thoroughly enjoyed the strength of Artemisia's character and her passion for art. She had a powerful ambition, and it was refreshing to see a woman with influence.
Best scene in story:
A favorite scene was when Artemisia first arrives in Florence and sees everything with fresh eyes. She tours around the city and discovers beautiful buildings and natural settings that were never present in Rome. Although there are at times offensive odors, Artemisia knows that Florence is substantially better than Rome, and her creativity is renewed. She turns that burst of creativity into producing great paintings.
Opinion about the main character:
Artemisia did have a tendency to dwell on the negative. She tried to overcome these troubles, but they lingered for most of her life.