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Book Review

Book: The Passion of Artemisia
Author: Susan Vreeland
Published: December, 2002
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)

available from

Synopsis: The Passion of Artemisia chronicles the extraordinary life of Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the few female artists of Renaissance Italy. This historical novel traces Artemisia’s public accusation of rape against her painting teacher Agostino Tassi and its ensuing humiliation, her hasty marriage to artist Pietro Stiatessi, motherhood, her strained relationship with her father, and her growing but fragile artistic success in the Renaissance art world.

Editor’s Review: After reading The Passion of Artemisia, I could not help but wonder if author Susan Vreeland was an artist herself. Through descriptive first person narrative, Vreeland presents us with vivid images of the models that Artemisia painted, rich details of the cities of the Rome, Florence and Genoa, and colorful portraits of her contemporaries, that not only bring the Italian Renaissance world to life but help us see the world through the artist’s eyes. And through the use of contemplative questions that Artemisia asks herself, Vreeland makes us feel as if are intimately involved in the artist’s personal life as she struggles to find fulfillment in her roles as wife, mother and daughter. Artemisia’s paintings are used as a chronicle not only of the her artistic development but as a reflection of her personal development as well, giving us insight into the personal significance of her body of work. Vreeland identifies Artemisia’s rape early on in the story as a significant catalyst for subsequent events in her life that lead to both suffering and triumph and ultimately, a recognition of her lifelong passion to be a great artist above all. It is in the healing of this early wound that Vreeland succeeds in drawing a rich and satisfying conclusion to this fascinating story of one of the greatest painters of the Renaissance.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
   You can see Diana's own artwork by visiting her site at