- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Serpent's Tail; New Ed edition (31 Mar. 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1852427663
- ISBN-13: 978-1852427665
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Artemisia (Five Star Paperback) Paperback – 31 Mar 2004
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What makes Artemisia a great book is this double destiny, of a book lost and recreated. A book that by being posthumous, rewritten, resurrected, gained incalculably in emotional reach and moral authority' Susan Sontag (in her introduction) Artemisia is a tour de force, but certain passages are of exquisite resonance (Times Literary Supplement)
About the Author
Anna Banti was born in Florence in 1895 and graduated from the University of Rome. She directed the literary section of the magazine Paragone and, after the death of her husband, the famous art critic Roberto Longhi, also the art section. She wrote Artemisia at the age of fifty-two and went on to produce a great deal of work on art and criticism after it was published. Anna Banti died in 1985.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
Artemisia is in some ways a forerunner of Mantel’s Cromwell novels. The boldness and emotional intensity with which Banti allows herself to be possessed by Artemisia is similar to Mantel’s wholehearted immersion into the intimate life of Cromwell. Like Mantel, Banti gives herself licence to imagine and invent descriptive details which bring her character vividly to life. Where this novel differs is it doesn’t have the compelling drama of an exciting historical bigger picture. This is more a study of a character in isolation. Banti endeavours to capture Artemisia in her solitude, where her paintings are conceived and created.
At the beginning of the novel Banti is trying to console herself for the loss of a manuscript. It is 1944 and she has evidently spent the war writing a novel about Artemisia Gentileschi. When the Germans blew up Florence’s bridges everyone living in the vicinity of the bridges was evacuated. Banti’s manuscript therefore was destroyed along with her home. It’s not clear why she doesn’t take the manuscript with her. Clearly there were many things that meant more to her. But the irony is, the loss of one version of the novel heralds the creation of what you feel in your bones is a much more daring and brilliant version.
It should be said Banti leaves a lot out. If you know nothing about Artemisia you might get the feeling from this novel that her accomplishments were less important than history has deemed them.Read more ›
The story is interesting. Facts and fiction to the plight of modern day women as juxtaposed to those of the 17th century.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Banti, the pseudonym of art historian and novelist Lucia Lopresti, tells Artemisia’s story in a very unusual way. She intersperses Artemisia’s life with her own experiences in war-torn Florence during World War II. The Germans destroyed her house and, with it, the original manuscript of this novel. It was going to be a more straightforward novel of Artemisia’s life, but instead, in the later version, Banti has turned it into a dialogue between herself and Artemisia, and you see Artemisia following the author through the devastated city. This technique makes the novel difficult to follow at first, as the reader tries to keep track of who is speaking, Banti or Artemisia, but ultimately it proves rewarding. Banti’s writing is beautifully lyrical, and her description of Artemisia’s journey to England, in particular, reads more like poetry than prose. This is an excellent novel about a remarkable woman.
Artemisia had, to put it mildly, a turbulent personal life. She was discredited in a rape trial, betrayed by her own father and abandoned by her husband. Her professional life, however, was far different. She was the first woman admitted to the prestigious Florentine Academy; she established a successful art school in Naples; she raised her daughter on her own and supported herself financially during a time when a woman's life was defined only by home, husband, children and the Church.
Although the above is about the sum total of all that's known about Artemisia Gentileschi's life, writer, Anna Banti, managed to flesh out these bare bones facts into one of the triumphs of 20th century Italian literature.
"Artemisia" is definitely not a biography or even a fictionalized one. It is not a historical work; in fact, the setting of this book is definitely ahistorical. It consists of an amazing dialogue between the author and Artemisia. There are, as way I see it, three levels in this book: the experiences of Artemisia, the experiences of the author and a blending of the two, to make a very fascinating third.
The very essence of this book consists of Artemisia's travels, all made for the sake of her art. Included are the young Artemisia's traumatic experiences in Rome, her marriage, her years of success in Naples, her long and undoubtedly arduous journey to England and back again to her native Italy.
One of the things that makes this book so powerful is Banti's constant authorial intrusion, a device that would weaken (or destroy) more conventional novels. Moving back and forth from the thrid to the first person, Banti holds fascinating conversations with Artemisia. This leads to a captivating, but very complex, narrative. As the dialogue between author and subject intensifies, Banti complicates matters even further.
In 1944, when the first version of "Artemisia" was nearly complete, events of the war caused it to be destroyed. The "Artemisia" of the first version constantly intrudes on the "Artemisia" of the second version, however. Confusing? No, not really. Banti is far too good a writer for that. Complex? Yes. And lyrical and skillful and fragile.
Despite the fact that this is not a historical novel, it is highly atmospheric. There are no detailed descriptions to weigh down the weightless quality of Banti's lyricism, but there are many vivid images of 17th century Rome, Naples, Florence, France.
No matter how fast you usually read, "Artemisia" is a novel that should be read slowly. This is a demanding book that requires much concentration on the part of the reader, but this concentration will be richly rewarded.
There is a vague, circular quality about this book and, in a sense, it ends where it began. In reality, however, nothing is known about Artemisia Gentileschi's life after her return to Italy from England.
This book is complex, intricate, self-reflective and extremely lyrical. Although it has an ephemeral, gossamer quality, it succeeds wonderfully in bringing Artemisia Gentileschi to life in a vivid and wonderful manner.
"Anna Banti" was the pen-name of Lucia Lopresti (1895-1985), a scholar and essayist, writing on aspects of Italian art and history. This, her first novel, began as an imaginative reconstruction of the life of the painter Artemesia Gentileschi, the first and virtually only woman in 17th-century Italy to gain acceptance comparable to her male colleagues. Banti had just finished the novel in draft form when, in August 1944, her house in Florence was blown up in a rearguard action by German troops evacuating the city, and the manuscript was destroyed. In wakening Artemisia to life once again, the author was no longer content with a straight biography but, as she explains in a preface to the reader, wanted to set down her own emotions as well: shaken by events, but both possessed by and possessing Artemisia.
So scenes in the crowded streets in baroque Rome alternate with crowds of refugees in the Boboli Gardens in Florence, fleeing the mined buildings and huddling on the grass to avoid being machine-gunned (no wonder I had a hard time following!). And in the middle of all that, the ghost of Artemisia: "Silently she moans, like a Medusa among her snakes, and once again she is supine, crushed in a white sleep of dust, turning her head to one side like a woman in death searching for her last breath. Dusk has overtaken us; this time yesterday Florence and all her stones were solid, everything that they sheltered was intact. Down below in the city, the last beams are caving in; there are reports of mysterious fires burning among the rubble."
One further difficulty is chronology. Little was known of Artemisia's life at the time Banti was writing, so if readers check her account against modern information in Wikipedia, say, they will find considerable discrepancies. There is also the fact that, after drafting Artemisia's story presumably in sequence, she was now recapturing it as a timeless whole: "Having been driven out of the rational time-setting of her story, she now carries all her ages with her mysteriously." So we know that Artemisia had been raped as a teenager well before the occasion is described. We see her being subjected to torture before we realize that this is a legal requirement to prove her former virginity in her father's suit against her attacker. We meet someone described as her father-in-law pages before we are told of her arranged marriage. And we hear about her fame and the paintings on which it is based before most of them have even been painted. Many of these are of women being exploited by men (such as Susanna and the Elders) and women getting their revenge (such as Judith and Holofernes). Artemisia was an accomplished artist, and one with an agenda.
Whether told linearly, or with author and subject folded together in an emotional knot that transcends time, Artemisia's is a stirring story, a locus classicus of feminism. But the reader should be warned: it does not make for easy reading.