Artemisia (1997) 

 

 

Director:  AgnPs Merlet

Starring:   Valentina Cervi (Artemisia Gentileschi), Michel Serrault (Orazio Gentileschi), Miki Manojlovic (Agostino Tassi), Luca Zingaretti (Cosimo Quorli), Emmanuelle Devos (Costanza), Frédéric Pierrot (Roberto), Maurice Garrel(The Judge), Brigitte Catillon (Tuzia), Yann Trégouët (Fulvio), Jacques Nolot (The Lawyer), Silvia De Santis (Marisa), Renato Carpentieri (Nicolo), Dominique Reymond (Tassi's Sister), Liliane RovPre (The Rich Merchant's Wife), Alain Ollivier (The Duke).

Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the most accomplished early Baroque painters in the generation influenced by Caravaggio.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Rome 1610.  Girls in the school are praying.  Artemisia Gentileschi hangs back as the other girls file out.  She steals a candle.  With it and a mirror she looks at her body.  (nudity)  She then starts sketching her own body while looking in the mirror.  The drawings are found and Artemisia's painter father is called in.  One of the nuns tells her:  "You should be ashamed of yourself."  Her father says what can you expect for Artemisia is the daughter of a painter.  Dad takes her away from the school. 

Artemisia will be learning more about painting in the workshop of her father.  Later Artemisia walks through the local village and down to the sea.  As she walks, she is surprised from behind by her friend Fulvio.  Artemisa runs away from the beach and she sees a man and a woman having sex in the sand.  (brief nudity)  She goes closer to get a better look.  The couple finishes and leaves.  Artemisia looks at the shape left in the sand of the beach.  She goes down to the sight and lays her body down in the cavity made by the woman's body.

Artemisia really wants to paint the bodies of naked men.  Her father tells her that the Pope won't allow it.  He adds that painting is not a good profession for women. 

A young man and his mother have come over to speak with Artemisia and her step mother. The mothers talk about the possibility of the two young people eventually marrying.  Artemisia shocks everyone when she asks about the young man:  "Can he pose naked for me?"  Artemisia's step mother slaps her hard across her face and tells the other mother that:  "She's very difficult since her mother died." 

Artemisia goes down to the beach to see Fulvio.  She tells him that she will let him kiss her, if he does a favor for her.  So Fulvio gives Artemisia a good, long kiss.  Now that the kiss is over, Artemisia tells Fulvio to undress.  She keeps urging him on until he is completely nude (penis shown).  She starts intently studying the structure of his body. 

A client comes to Gentileschi's studio to see his finished portrait.  He looks over the painting and is happy with it, but he wants the painter to change the sliver armor into gold armor.  Artemisia likes it better with silver because the colors match better, but dad wants to please the customer. 

Artemisia goes down to the beach and sees a man painting there.  (It is probably the painter Tassi.)  She and Fulvio go down to take a closer look. 

Gentileschi and his daughter go to the Academy.  He tells those who he talks to that he thinks his daughter is a prodigy.  She outperforms all of his other students.  The problem, however, is that Artemisia is a girl and the Academy doesn't accept girls. 

Tassi and Gentileschi will be working together on the paintings in a church being finished.  Tassi tells his older friend that the Pope put him in charge of the project and not Gentileschi.  Tassi tells him to come to the bordello with him.  They will get a girl and share the work.  Gentileschi says he will leave the night work to Tassi.  Artemisia is upset a bit that her dad will have to play second fiddle to Tassi, but dad tells her that Tassi has some very powerful friends in the church. 

Artemisia walks over to the church with her sketches that she has finished for her father.  She meets Agostino Tassi who asks her who she wants to see.  She tells Tassi that she is the daughter of Gentileschi.  Artemisia asks him to tell her father that she finished his sketches.  Tassi is very taken with the lovely daughter and he watches her as she runs out of and from the church.  He then looks at her sketches. 

Artemisia goes over to the brothel.  She looks through the window and laughs at the peculiar stances of the couples.  She runs over to another window, looks in and sees Tassi.  He sees her and she sees him and then Artemisia runs away. 

The next day Tassi sees Artemisia behind as she bends over painting white a canvas laid on the ground.  He gives her a little push with his boot and she falls over.  Artemisia scolds him for this, but he says he thought she was just one of his pupils bending over.  Artemisia asks him to come with her over to see her studio.  In her outdoor studio she shows Tassi some of her paintings.  He tells her that these must be the work of her father, not her.  Artemisia assures him that the paintings are by her.

The next day Artemisia comes over to the church and asks Tassi to take her as his pupil.  She adds:  "You must!"  She has brought him her male sketches and Tassi looks over them.  He answers her:  "No, I will not and I cannot."  Artemisia is insulted and tells him:  "I'll surpass you one day." 

Gentileschi tells his daughter that Tassi told him that she provoked him.  Artemisia denies this.  Her dad then tells her the happy news.  He has persuaded Tassi to take her as a pupil.  She hugs her father.  Artemisia is going over to see Tassi.  Her dad sends Marisa to act as chaperon for Artemisia.   

Tassi sets up Artemisia and tells her to start painting.  Artemisia tells him that she can't paint while he is watching her.  So Tassi takes her outdoors.  While Tassi encourages Artemisia to try to paint new things, namely outdoor things, one of his former lovers, Costanza, comes over to talk with him.  She doesn't like seeing Tassi with a young, pretty girl.  Tassi wants to get rid of Costanza, so he passes her off to Batiste.

Tassi goes back to Artemisia.  They go to his studio.  She asks him if he would pose for her?  Tassi takes off his clothes and Artemisia poses him.  He gets self-conscious and turned on and breaks away from her.  Tassi teaches Marisa to fly a kite by the beach.  As the chaperon is otherwise occupied, Tassi and Artemisia hold hands and walk back to the studio.  They kiss and he undresses her.  Tassi doesn't know that Artemisia is a virgin and he hurts her when he thrusts himself into her.  She cries out because it hurt and now blood flows down and onto her fingers.  Tassi apologizes to Artemisia.  He then tells her that he loves her.  Artemisia and Marisa head for home. 

The next time Artemisia and Tassi are together, she lays on top of her model and soon the couple are making love. 

A male visitor tells Gentileschi about the rumors that Artemisia and Tassi are with each other in the Biblical sense.  Gentileschi doesn't believe it and asks who is saying these things about his honorable daughter?  But the damage is done.  Gentileschi is now suspicious of his daughter and Tassi.  He starts asking his daughter pointed questions.  One day Gentileschi runs over to Tassi's studio.  He finds Marisa busy flying a kite.  He goes past her without her noticing and goes up to the studio.  He hears his daughter's laugher and he looks through a window.  Artemisia is nude while she and Tassi look over some sketches.  Gentileschi is shocked. 

Gentileschi tells Marisa that she could go to jail for helping Tassi seduce his daughter.  Marisa tells Artemisia and she gets upset over the news.  Gentileschi now goes down to the church to speak with Tassi.  He tells him:  "Promise you didn't touch my daughter."  He moans:  "I trusted you.  Tell me you didn't betray me."  He also insists if Tassi has betrayed him with Artemisia, then Tassi must marry Artemisia.  Dad cries. 

Gentileschi has the guards arrest Tassi.  Artemisia comes to her father and asks him:  "What have you done?  I love him."  Dad responds:  "He raped you!"  Artemisia tells her father that he only wants her and his frescoes. 

The trial of Tassi starts.  Artemisia makes an appearance and a lot of males come to stare at her.  She is only 15 years of age.  Tassi tells an adviser that he loves Artemisia.  Then why not marry her?   No answer. 

Being questioned, Artemisia tells the court that she is a virgin.  So they have a nun and a mid-wife examine her.  They report to the court that Artemisia is not a virgin.  The judge says to Gentileschi that his daughter is a liar.  The court brings in Tassi's sister from Florence.  She says to the court:  "My brother is a wicked person.  He must be stopped."  And her brother has a wife in Florence.  Tassi shouts that she left him of her own free will three years ago.  He then shouts to Artemisia:  "This is slander, Artemisia."  Tassi's adviser tells him that he needs a good defense, but Tassi only says:  "I'll say nothing against her." 

Artemisia and Marisa together get out of the coach and go to the jail.  Artemisia goes to speak with Tassi.  When they come together, they hug.  She does tells him that he lied to her and he did hurt her.  Tassi responds:  "I'd do anything to keep you."  Artemisia comments:  "You're part of me now.  I love you." 

In the trial the defense shows that Artemisia is psychologically no virgin.  Twenty of her drawings of male genitelia are shown.  Theses drawings are a violation of divine law!  Gentileschi bends his head in shame for his daughter.  The defense spokesman asks:  "Who is the victim of whom?" 

The judge takes Tassi and Artemisia into a back room in order to get the truth from them.  What he is really going to do is torture Artemisia by gradually tightening leather thongs run around and in an out of the fingers of her two hands.  Artemisia says Tassi did not rape her, but she is then tortured with the tightening of the leather until her hands start to bleed.  Tassi is so upset about the torture of Artemisia that he yells that he did rape her. 

Artemisia is home laying in bed with her fingers bandaged.  When her father tries to get close to her, she turns away from him.  Tassi is given two years in jail for the rape. 

Gentileschi goes into the church.  He tells the workers to take all the scaffolding down.  He then has Artemisia's outdoor studio taken down.  Her stepmother comes out to tell Artemisia that if she leaves, it will kill her father.  Artemisia responds:  "You know I have to leave and so does he." 

"Artemisia never saw Agostino again.  A month after the trial's end she was betrothed to Pietro Stiattesi, the son of a neighbor.  She left Rome in a marriage of convenience for the sake of her honor which had been so poorly served.  Artemisia Gentileschi became the first female member of the Academy in Florence and was the first woman in the history of art to be commissioned for her work.  She later reconciled with her father in England where she painted at the invitation of the King.  She gave birth to a daughter and taught her to paint.  Artemisia Gentileschi's paintings bear witness to her genius and singularity as a woman and as a painter.  Her work is shown in such prestigious museums as the Musee du Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York." 

 

The film really doesn't do justice to Artemisia as an artist.  It highlights a very short time in her life when she was 15 years old.  She and her mentor, the artist Agostino Tassi, had sexual relations with each other and declared they loved each other.  The problem is the age of Artemisia at the time.  They did show some of her paintings, but very few because she was only 15 years old.  Someone could make another movie about the artists whole life and give the famous artist her due.  The film was interesting in what it did show, especially the terrible limits put on females as to what they could and could not do.  Another particularly disgusting item used in those times was torture.  How did these geniuses ever think that torture would bring out the truth?  The tortured will say almost anything the torturers want to hear.  Poor Artemisia was tortured and it caused Tassi to lie in order to stop her torturers.  The torturers don't really want the truth anyway.  They want to hear what they are told they should hear.  Valentina Cervi (as Artemisia Gentileschi) is very pretty and has the look of innocence of a 15 year old girl.  She did a very good acting job. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

1593 (July 8)  --  Artemisia Gentileschi born in Rome.  She was the eldest child of painter Orazio Gentileschi, who was a representative of the school of Caravaggio. 

Artemisia learned how to paint from her father and, naturally, her style was also influence by Caravaggio. 

1610  --  at age 17, Artemisia painted Susanna e i Vecchioni (Susanna and the Elders).  The style had the realism of Caravaggio, but with influence from the Bologna school (with Annibale Carracci as one of its major artists).

1612  --  Artemisia was denied access to the professional academies for art. So her father hired the Tuscan painter Agostino Tassi to tutor Artemisia privately.

Tassi raped Artemisia and then promised to marry her to restore her reputation.  When Tassi did not keep his promise, Orazio reported Tassi to the authorities. What followed was a 7-month trial.  In the trial, Orazio and Artemisia learned just how bad a man Tassi was.  Tassi had planned to murder his wife, had committed incest with his sister-in-law and planned to steal some of Orazio’s paintings.

To add insult to injury, there was a second rape.  There was a crazy thought that a way to find out the truth, was to submit the accuser to torture to make sure the person would tell the same story under torture as the original story.  Artemisia was tortured by using a device that would squeeze her fingers.  Tassi was imprisoned, but for only one year. 

1612-1613  --  Artemisia painted violent Judith beheading Holofernes" that most probably reflects her  psychological desire for revenge.

1613  --  one month after the trial, Orazio arranged a marriage for his daughter to the average Florentine artist Pierantonio Stiattesi.  The couple soon moved to Florence.  Artemisia became a successful court painter, with the Medici family and Charles the I as patrons.  One of her paintings was The Virgin Mary with Baby.

Artemisia had great success and she knew many of her artistic contemporaries, such as Cristofano Allori, as well as powerful people such as Granduke Cosimo II de' Medici and especially the Granduchess Cristina. She also knew Galileo Galilei and the nephew of Michelangelo, Buonarroti.

In Florence, the couple had five children (only one of which survived to adulthood). 

1621  --  despite her success, Artemisia and her husband had acquired too many debts and to get away from the creditors they moved to Rome.  Artemisia joined the Academy of Desiosi.  Life in Rome was harder because she received fewer commissions. 

between 1627 and 1631  --  she moved to Venice in the hopes of getting more commissions.

1627  -- birth of another daughter to Artemisia.

 1630  --  Artemisia moved to Naples, still seeking more commission opportunities.  Except for a brief trip to London and a few other journeys, she remained in Naples for the rest of her life. 

She raised her two daughters, had good relations with the Vicere' Duca d'Alcalà and relations with artists such as Massimo Stanzone.  She actually began an artistic collaboration with Stanzone. 

1638  --  Artemisia joined her father in London because he had become the court painter for Charles I of England.  She and her father began to work together on decorating a ceiling in the Casa delle Delizie of queen Henrietta Maria of France in Greenwich.  

1630  --  her father suddenly died.

by 1642  -- she had left England as civil war approached. . 

1649  --  Artemisia began corresponding with Don Anontio Ruffo of Sicily, who had become her mentor.

1650  --  in her last letter to her mentor, she stated that she was still fully involved with her painting. 

1653  --  death of Artemisia. 

 

 

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