Discussion Outline

Megan Borders
ARTH 460 – Women in Western Art
Group Members: Sara & Trish

Artemisia Gentileschi
Readings:
Garrard, “Artemisia and Susanna,” FAH
Wittkower and Wittkower, Born Under Saturn (1963), “Agostino Tassi – The Seducer of Artemisia Gentileschi.”
Biblical Narrative – Daniel Chapter 13
Movie:
The Rape of Artemisia

Discussion Outline:
 First things first: Take 5-10 minutes to think about, or re-read if necessary, the biblical narrative of Susanna and the Elders. How is Artemisia’s interpretation different than the biblical context? In what ways is it the same?
o A quick review of the biblical narrative to start things off.
o A brief bit of background information about the artist.
*Something to think about during the discussion, which we can bring up again near the end of class: “Do you think Artemisia could have painted this the same, had she not been through this?”
N.B. – Knowing what we know about the date of this painting (1610) and the date of the rape trial (1611), could ongoing harassment prior to the rape have been the artist’s motivating factor of her unique portrayal of Susanna, rather than the rape itself?
 Taking a look at Garrard:
o Susanna and the Elders, Pommersfelden, Schloss Weissenstein, Collection Dr. Karl Graf von Schonborn (Brooklyn Museum) 1610, has been attributed to Artemisia Gentileschi
o Differences between Artemisia’s theme of Susanna and the Elders other artists’ of the same subject; briefly compare each side by side:
 Artemisia vs. Tintoretto (1555-56)
 Artemisia vs. Rubens (1636-40)
 Artemisia vs. Rembrandt (1647)
• Artemisia’s choice to ditch the “Venus pose” in favor of a defensive gesture
• Might her interpretation be different because she’s a woman approaching this subject?
o Artemisia’s Susanna figure is more realistic in terms of female body proportion than other male artists depict in their own work during that time. Is this because only women were allowed to view female models? Does the fact that the artist is a woman herself play a part?
o Differences between Artemisia and Orazio’s treatment of a theme
 The gestures in Orazio’s David and Goliath vs. those in Artemisia’s Susanna
 Artemisia and her father both chose to paint the subject of Judith and her Maidservant, but treat the female figures in their paintings differently. Compare and contrast
• Did experiences in Artemisia’s personal life affect the way she chose to portray her Judith?
*Garrard argues that the date of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Susanna and the Elders is 1610. Given what we know now about the rape trials taking place a year later, what does that tell us? Does it change our opinion about her treatment of the theme?

Wittkower reading:
 Artemisia vs. Tassi: p. 163 – “The Artemisia affair had certainly caused a sensation. But Tassi did not care and his patrons did not mind.”
 For Artemisia the trial brought shame, dishonor, etc. She has to personally write to patrons, practically begging for work
i. She eventually goes on to have an “honorable” career as a “lascivious and precocious girl,” What do you think Wittkower means by this? (p. 164)
 Tassi: “In the years after the scandal he received his greatest commissions,” (p. 164)
i. His reputation does not seem to be damaged at all, as he was described as witty and clever
1. Comparison with Caravaggio as the “bad boy,” which means success for men but not women. Men seemed to get away with everything, including, in this case, rape. Is this still true today?
ii. Tassi eventually even wins back his friendship with Orazio
Further discussion to consider:
 Artemisia vs. Vittoria Colonna: both taking matters into their own hands and writing to patrons to get what they want in a society so clearly dominated by men
 What would Vasari say about Artemisia? In Properzia de’Rossi’s case, he left out certain instances of her bad behavior, in favor of a more ladylike interpretation of the artist. Would Vasari have skimmed over the details of the rape trial, referring to Artemisia as a “poor raped girl,” or would he have left them out completely? Does everything we know about the rape trial add to what we like or dislike about Artemisia (for example, is one drawn to her work emotionally because they feel sorry for the violated artist behind it?)
o Artists bringing their own personal life experiences into their work
o Susanna and the Elders has been a popular theme in art, but in this case is it of greater significance because of Artemisia’s personal life?
What are the attitudes toward rape today?
For Artemisia, the best option (or perhaps her only acceptable option) would have been to marry Tassi after he raped her. That obviously doesn’t happen today, but do the same issues of shame, reputation and dishonor pertain to rape victims in our society?

Slides of Images:
 Artemisia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders, 1610, Pommersfelden, Schloss Weissenstein, Collection Dr. Karl Graf von Schonborn (Brooklyn Museum).
 Tintoretto, Susanna and the Elders, 1555-56. Vienna, Kunsthistoriches Museum.
 Peter Paul Rubens, Susanna and the Elders, 1636- 40. Munich, Alte Pinakothek.
 Rembrandt, Susanna and the Elders, 1647. Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz.
 Roman Sarcophagus, Orestes Slaying Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, detail, Rome, Museo Profano Lateranense.
 Orazio Gentileschi, David and Goliath, ca. 1605- 1610. Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland.
 Orazio Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant, 1610-12, Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum.
 Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant, 1625. The Detroit Institute of Arts.

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