Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian Baroque painter. Her paintings focussed on depicting strong and suffering women from myths and Biblical stories. For many years her work was regarded as strange and curious. Today, she is regarded as one of the most progressive, expressive and accomplished painters of her generation.
In the early 1600’s, Artemisia was raped by her mentor, Agostino Tassi. In her version of Judith Slaying Holofernes, Gentileschi painted herself as Judith, beheading Tassi, who she painted as Holofernes.
Artemisia took Tassi to trial in 1612, which lasted for 7 months. During the trial, Artemisia was tortured with thumbscrews and cords of rope tied around her hands to “prove” she was telling the truth. During the torture (which seriously injured her hands) she was repeatedly asked if Tassi had raped her, and she continually replied, “it is true, it is true.”
Tassi repeatedly tried to discredit Artemisia by bringing up her sexual history, a tried and trusted method of today’s cultural and legal defences of rape.
Artemisia’s story is brave and inspirational. It should not, however, overshadow her incredible talent as an artist. Let’s not forget that she could paint any of those dudes out the room.