21 thoughts on “Artemisia (1997) Misses the Mark

  1. I’ve seen it too and thought how disgusting the patriarchy making her seminal moment into a love story and not the truth. As long as ‘Hollywood’ is able to get away with this, women will suffer.

    Rape IS NOT love.

    There’s a pretty good historical novel on Artesmesia by Susanne Vreeland called The Passion of Artemesia.

    1. Here’s the kicker… Artemisia was directed by a woman whose stated objective was to give her back her voice.

      By erasing the fact that she was raped by an older man who took advantage of her vulnerability as both his student and a young woman with no rights of her own. Even her father had to bring the charges against Tassi because Artemisia couldn’t do it herself.

  2. I wanted to love this movie. Artemisia and her contemporaries like Sophonisba Anguissola are phenomenally interesting in their own right. I knew the general outline of the trial, and that they specifically inflicted punishments to her hands because she was a painter. I was incensed that the director flipped the motivation. I don’t generally mind some liberties (I’m fine with Arwen’s portrayal in the LOTR movies as they gave her actual agency) but this felt viscerally wrong. The director’s (Agnes Merlet) explanation felt vapid at best. Sorry, I don’t usually get quite so worked up.

  3. Thank you for giving me the heads up to take a hard pass on this movie. I adore Artemisia and how she boldly took on society even though she knew she couldn’t win. I love how autobiographical her art is — I very much feel represented in her art. I have a whole bunch of non-G rated words and feelings for people that twist rape and exploitation to suit patriarchy’s whims. Nope. Nope. Nope!

    1. One of the things I loved the most about the film was that it really did have a lot of correlations to Artemisia’s works. There’s a scene where she’s at the Academy with her father, and she’s waiting outside while her father asks for her to be admitted, and these two students are harassing her. It was framed almost straight out of Susanna and the Elders painting.

      It just kills me that a film that clearly had paid really close attention to the Artemisia’s art could just flagrantly dismiss her actual history.

  4. Thank you for watching this so we don’t have to. Sadly, “Artemisia gets a sexual education” is a very common 20th century portrayal of the artist. I hope you don’t mind if I share the link to the recent article on Artemisia’s trial since it seems to be a bit more relatable to too many women’s experiences.


  5. This really irks me. We all understand filmmakers often can’t fit everything into a film. But speeding up the timeline or condensing the number of characters is fundamentally different from stuff like this. And it falls hardest on those already-underrepresented groups, where they become stereotypes or passive victims or both. Awful. It would be great for her story to be really told. An author once described tradition as the democracy of the dead; it would be good if films were dedicated to preserving that idea, of letting historical persons be historical, in their own voices and perceptions (in line with the many great points in the article on this site about how to make a feminist film—such as showing the reality of women’s lives), and not fit our ideas about “forbidden sex is so sexy” or “see how downtrodden they were,” etc.

  6. Artemesia is one of my favorite painters of all time, she was a badass in so many ways and I really look up to her. She had the courage to do what I couldn’t and I just took comfort in the idea of her. I’m so glad I never watched this movie. I’m literally misty eyed just thinking about how horrible it is to make her RAPIST her secret lover. It’s so close to home. Thank you for the warning

  7. Tassi also looked like Sisera, and like the younger creephat in ‘Susanna and the Elders’. The movie had so much potential, and then mishandled the rape and trial so badly.

  8. I’m speechless. How could they? How could they? And a woman director too? That’s way beyond crass; it’s a betrayal.

    Not even for accurate 17th-century costuming and decor could I bring myself to watch this.

  9. Oh my God, I am so happy to read this! I remember back in the late ’90s I was so excited hearing the buzz about this movie… and when I finally read the reviews, I was enraged. And it got positive reviews from Roger Ebert, of all people! And it seemed that I was the only person bothered by Artemisia’s life being twisted like this– the story of her rape trial, and how she fought to bring Tassi to justice– and it being turned into a story of “forbidden love.” Are you f*cking KIDDING me?

    Thank you, Sarah. At last I feel vindicated!

    Tassi was really a scumbag– he most probably murdered his wife too. If you’re going to watch any movie about Artemisia, avoid this movie like the plague and watch Michael Palin’s excellent documentary Quest for Artemisia.

  10. Thank you much for the sentence “Does it irritate you when rape is whitewashed as a love story between two misunderstood lovers?”. Because I feel the same! I could puke when rape is described as “passionate” and “sexy” in e. g. romance or historical novels! There is even the term “forced seduction” for this sick plot twist when a male character (who is attractive of course …) starts to be sexually aggressive towards the heroine and she, after initial self-defence, starts to like it. WTF! What’s worse, this shit was written by women! How stupid must these women have been to publish their fantasies and thus to perpetuate the sick idea that rape is no serious crime.

  11. After terrible movies like this, and about Sor Juana, and…all the others, I have pretty well given up on movies about women in the 17th c. Film makers just can’t seem to trust the material. Making AG’s rapist into a hero betrays her again. Aargh!

  12. I had managed to erase the memory that this travesty had ever existed from my memory. In the days before the internet, the only way I got to see films that weren’t Hollywood blockbusters was my local art house cinema, which, IIRC, withdrew this film after protests from the art school students whose campus was pretty much right next door!

  13. See I had wanted to see this movie because period pieces are my passion, but i read up on artemisia from art appreciation class and UGH! Like that movie there is the biggest insult not only to the woman herself but to other women who went through that!! Like there was more to tassi that he was an evil fucker (pardon my french) and to make him this tragic lover….it makes me wanna slap the director and writer for making this crap!!

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