Friday, January 30, 2009

Week of February 6

This week your readings are focused around the idea of the "heroic" woman--something we identified in class as a potentially transgressive female role. In your blog posts you may wish to consider what qualifies as heroism for a woman, and why that could be transgressive. Of course, you may also consider anything else that interests you!

Whitney Chadwick, “The Other Renaissance,” Chapter 3, Women, Art, and Society, 4th ed. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007), pp. 87-113.

Ruth 1-4 New Oxford Annotated Bible [NOAB].
Judith 2-4, 7-16 NOAB.
Susanna 1: 1-63 NOAB.

Mary D. Garrard, “Artemisia and Susanna,” in Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1982), pp.146-171.

Sheila ffolliott, “Learning to Be Looked At: A Portrait of (the Artist as) a Young Woman in Agnès Merlet’s Artemisia,” in Reclaiming Female Agency: Feminist Art History After Postmodernism, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 48-61.

Mary D. Garrard, “Artemisia’s Hand,” in Reclaiming Female Agency: Feminist Art History After Postmodernism, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 62-79.


  1. I have to admit that because I read the essay about the Artemesia movie before going to watch it, my judgment was more than a little clouded. Also, having read more about her life in general, the movie was hard to watch. It seemed like they glossed over the rape, and made Artemesia seem like she was a tease. Even if the rape happened as it is portrayed in the movie, it is still pretty sickening how they make him seem like a hero for “saving her” at the end with his “sacrifice”. And how he says, “I didn’t know!” When he figures out he just raped a virgin…as if it would have been ok if she were not. I do agree with the author when she expresses the points about how she is shown as an object throughout the film, rather than an artist. I am glad, however, that I did read that essay before I went, because I think it made me a more critical viewer, and I was able to see the inconsistencies and objectification, as I would not have been able to otherwise. I thought it was absolutely sickening the way she was portrayed as pining over him and how they had her recite his words at the end. The author talks about how she is portrayed as a “Jane Eyre like romantic heroine”. Right after that she discusses the voyeurism involved in the first scene, where she has stolen a candle (presumably a symbol of her stolen moment to draw) and is looking at her body with a mirror to draw her body parts. This is a theme in the movie, as the author also points out, that she is reduced to parts. I totally agreed with this essay, Learning to Be Looked At, and I am glad I got a chance to read it before the movie.

  2. I got a chance to read the bible readings last That Judith story was something else. I really do not remember that story from sunday school. I wonder why? Anyway, I found it very interesting the contrast between Judith and the other two women in the bible stories, but yet they still were all considered "pious". I do remember Ruth and boaz from sunday school, but I guess I dont remember the story being like that. I don't remember Susanna. As I read the stories, I had the paintings in my head as illustrations so that was cool. Susanna is seen as such a good woman, but she is still saved by a heroic man who is filled with gods spirit to save her. Anyway, I rather enjoyed reading these, maybe because of the translations, but they were interesting as stories.

  3. Going into the movie I had not read any of the passages and in talking about the trial scene with a few other students what stuck out was the painful thumbscrew torture device they used on Artemisia. As artist we found this to be painful in many ways because to hurt an artist hand hurts the artists work as well because there hand is the means in which there work is materialized, from thought to action.

    “The hand is for the body as the intellect is for the soul”

    The last essay by Mary D. Garrard stuck out in my mind, because when I think of art historians studying paintings or artworks, especially when trying to differentiate between a father and daughters piece of work there are going to be obvious anatomical differences. Those differences are seen in how the women’s body is portrait, her features, her breast even her flaws but I do not normally think of the hands as a means of such expression and a story within themselves. Maybe it is because I did not grow up on a farm using my hands daily to where they tell a story in themselves of how hard they have or have not worked. Basically I just found this an extremely interesting essay, definitely gave me a new view on hands and how various paintings/painters separate themselves by sometimes the smallest gestures that say so much.

  4. I enjoyed the movie but I kinda wish I wouldn't have read the readings before seeing it. Yes it gave me clarification of characters and the situation as well as the symbolic meaning behind the paint but I felt as though the movie clouded my interpretaion of the readings.

  5. Don't get me wrong the movie had alot of aestetic qualities that reiterated the readings but some of the scenes that appeared in the movie, played differently in my head when doing the reading.

  6. Oh and another it jsut me or does the painting in the book on page 148, reads "Art gentle"...the way the light is casted in her name when first looking at it, well for me said "art gentle"...that's an interesting observation that may or may not had any meaning to the rape scene at all but it struck me that it looks like that. What do you think? Did you see that?

  7. I also read the readings before seeing the movie, but I'm glad I did, both for the awareness and the clarification of the plot and characters. I also noticed that the scenes with Tassi having his vice of orgy party that it was detailed, but the "rape" was more or less reduced to the smallest possible amount of detail. The movie seemed to portray her as not a good person. She was sneaky, bossy, and arrogant, and there was nothing to make me want to sympathize with her as a tragic heroine. Considering the movie was made by a woman it was interesting to see this woman presented with such a "typical" male perspective.

    Also, the point in the reading about the viewpoints making her look like a model instead of the artist seemed to be true as well.

  8. Has anyone thought about what they are going to write about?

  9. I have yet to check the movie out to see it, but I have read the readings and I must say that the hands have captured me! I find it fully fascinating that with a little attention to detail that one can interpret so much from a painting. I often wondered why women in paintings were painted with strong arms and bulky hands. I always thought it was just a habit of the artist to make the women look more manly. I never made the connection that it, in a way did, but not for the physical attributes. It was done to display the power of the woman. Power and women. Such a great thing, it lies just under the surface though. A woman's strength is from inside out.

    Rachelles comment of the farm workers also stuck out to me. Hands do tell a story. Look at different students in art (not so much now with the EPA regulations, but stay with me here) you can basically tell which student does what. The ceramicists have clay in their nail beds and usually really short fingernails. Painters usually have a smudge of paint on their hands. Fabric workers have dye. Sculptors (metal workers) have strong darkened hands from the metal deposits. This article, and Rachelle, have really put thought into how histories are told, and in paintings-manipulated.

  10. How do you tell a photographer? The tell tale chemical smell?

  11. I think the movie's emphasis on Artmesia's sexuality undermined her importance as an artist. I predict the average movie-goer would come away from the movie thinking more of its sexual aspects rather than details about how women were forbidden to draw from the male models.
    Odd how this dovetails with some articles for Nona's history of film class. I was reading something last week that talked about how disruptive and transgressive female characters often find themselves pigeonholed into a convenient female stereotype by the end of a movie, in order to nuetralize their threat to a largely male audience. The article went on to say that the much demonized "vamp" is the most common of these. Sound like Artemesia?

  12. "The Romanticism of Rape"

    Why is it when a woman is taken advantage of /raped/assaulted it is romanticized in entertainment? This was my third time viewing Artemisia and after reading the literature have begun to really notice the romanticizing of the rape of her and how she loved Tassi. The reality was he tricked her into thinking he was going to marry her that after the rape and she was just trying to keep her honor as deemed be her culture. Not the fluff of them "making love" and going over drawings half dressed lovingly. (*gag*) The romanticized rape in the movie and from other artists of her time seems is most certainly about power, how man dominates over woman and, that taking advantage of her is the only way he can control her. Too it sends a message how woman must submit when a man wants her because it is her duty because not submitting is wrong or the idea of "that she was just asking for it" mentality.

    Side note: I thought the amount of blood from her hymen being broken was a little excessive.

  13. i wanted to comment on the reading of Judith. i found it interesting how holofernes was ordered by Nebuchadnezzer, the god king, to march across the land and conquer the people of Judah. Judith, the God fearing woman who answers only to the God of Israel, isn't ordered by God to do anything. Rather, she just DOES. she takes matters into her own hands and saved her people. the way she concealed her true motives to the assyrians and holofernes is in a manner of a kind of "double talk", the way politicians answer questions without answering them at all. the way she uses her femininity to destroy Holofernes interested be as well. she basically turned his manhood and lust for power and flesh against him. Judith 16:9 "Her sandal ravished his eyes, her beauty captivated his mind, and the sword severed his neck!" the sword, in this case, is a powerful metaphor for male arrogance, which ultimately becomes his undoing, in and by the hands of a virtuous woman.

  14. One maybe obvious parallel I would like to point out briefly before I go to class is the similar character roles of Daniel and Tassi.



  15. I really enjoyed watching the movie before doing the reading, because I was able to go into the movie with a more opened mind. Especially after the readings from last week being so virginal and pure, women didn't have a say really in anything they did especially if they came from a family of money. Life for them was all about who you got married off to. After leaving class it was kind of over whelming to think of what living during that time period was like, you no matter what had to be a housewife owned like property by your husband. While needing encouragement the only female role models or idols, one had to look at where naked women hidden away in their hope-chests (to give you a male ere for their husband) or Virgins that shined like gods in the churches. Life seemed only black or white.

    Then I watched the movie and got to see a completely different female ideal, because of the change of time period. Yes there was a lot more sex in this film then their probably should of been, but the truth is sex sells. I was more focused on seeing how Artemisia Gentileschi saw the world, to be able to paint the subject matter that she did, such as, Judith Decapitating Holofernes painted in 1618. She had to of been a strong, curious woman with a painful past, especially when having the skills to paint better than most of the men around her. I enjoyed how the movie showed her snicking around looking for subject matter, because she wasn't allowed to paint the interesting stuff that men could paint, such as, Male bodies, Sex, and stabbing deaths. For example when she saw the naked couple having sex on the beach, she watched for details and even lay in the same spot for her own personal mental Research of wonder. Women still didn't have very many rights in society, but having a father, who understood her talent enough to sometimes claim it as his own, would of course encourage her to look out of the sheltered box of female subject matter.

    In thinking more about the reading I was drawn by the quote from the text book on page 102,in how as a woman "Physically separating yourself from the women who spin gossip in the other room, betraying their sex by talk. Presenting women as a defect by nature..." To keep quite was the only way to really be yourself. Like these women for Antemisia to paint the subject matter she wanted to paint, it to betrayed her.

  16. "going to be later"? you guys know what i meant.

    Considering Trinity's comment earlier I can certainly see how Tassi was portrayed as the heroic male ready to save Artemisia, sacrificing his freedom for hers. Prior to reading “Learning to Be Looked At: A Portrait of (the Artist as) a Young Woman in Agnès Merlet’s Artemisia” I never gave a second thought to Tassi's role as a hero. If anything he kind of pissed me off. Artemisia seemed greatly in favor of Tassi's innocence, while Tassi's feelings seemed unsure. It wasn't until Artemisia's torture that he finally seemed sure and even then it seemed for selfish reasons.

    I entered the film thinking this is a film about a great woman artist, but in the end he sort of steals the show similar to Daniel and how he randomly appears and convinces the people that the elders were lying. Really? Where did he come from? Once he appeared the attention was no longer focused on Susanna, but Daniel.

    I guess one could see the reward in Susanna being faithful and trusting in God to save her instead of sleeping with the men, but I feel like that was overpowered by Daniel's actions.

    I don't know? I'm just saying...

  17. I didn’t read “Learning to Be Looked At” until after I had seen the film, so there weren’t many preconceived notions other than a brief discussion of the rape and the Holofernes paintings in Survey II and Prof. Daugherty asking us to pay close attention to the gender roles in the film. After having seen this “trite, simplistic portrait” it was shocking to hear the film makers speak about their inspiration for making the movie. Merlet talks about being stunned by the revelation that these “forceful and accomplished” paintings were painted by a woman. And actress Valentina Cervi talks about the ability to “feel her emotions” after having seen the paintings. Why does the talk not match the walk?
    Cervi’s portrayal of Gentileschi made her seem like a vacant minded bumbling vessel who has completely succumb to this desire for creating art. I often wonder if the audience is losing the translation when viewing a foreign film. The language is unfamiliar and you must read the dialogue so it makes me question whether the appropriate colloquialisms, intonations and meanings are being relayed. I just trust the theory which says that 80-90% of all language is non-verbal and I realize that I’m probably right in thinking her portrayal of Gentileschi has reduced her to a vapid wonderer oozing with sexual objectivity. And for Merlet to say that her inspiration for WRITING AND DIRECTING this film came from the power she felt from Gentileschi’s paintings is ludicrous. She completely butchered and bastardized the story in the vein you would expect to see in Hollywood. It’s almost as if she felt she couldn’t tell her story without spinning it into a sexy Italian love fest. The article talks about the constant flip flopping from gaze of the artist to being gazed at, the “looker” becoming the “lookee”. I’d say that’s generous to say that she was portrayed at all as the “looker”. There’s also this uncomfortable sexual undertone throughout the movie which reaches its’ precipice during the rape scene, which was dealt with very distastefully. How can something as grievous as rape have been so mishandled? This all hardly seems like a glorifying homage to an artist the director felt inspired by. It seems like late night “Skinemax” B-movie trash.

  18. On the story of Susanna, I agree with Siphne on the case of Daniel being emphasized more as the hero. Susanna really was meant to bring out the moral of the story, and in the end the hero was switched. I also feel the story had a focus on Susanna's innocence more than Susanna herself, and while it helps with the moral, it also links the paintings done that emphasized the perversion of Susanna being taken advantage of. The case of her being emotionally distressed isn't seen as much as her loyalty to God.

  19. After watching the movie i became i alittle confused about ther true story. I thought she was actually raped and painted the pictures of "holofernes" being decapitated for the rest of her life... i guess i little blurry from the Survey class.
    The film showed Artemisia as a strong woman who was determined to learn and accomplish her goals no matter the consequence..

    One of the most interesting things we read this week was about the way artemisia painted her hands. how she painted real hands rather than delicate, feminine hands. I examine my hands a lot and has always been my number one tool in life. I think my paper will reflect women's hands.

  20. By the way, if you look up thumbscrews it doesnt look anything like what they showed in the movie...its a metal thing that crushes your bones.

  21. This may be late, but I wanted to bring up this point:

    In Gerrard's article, "Artemesia's Hand", she talks about part of "Judith and Her Maidservent with the Head of Holofernes"

    She states, "Judith's left arm sweeps expansively across her body, impelled by the blade-like curve of her shadowed arm; her flat palm rises rhetorically into strong light to shout, "Stop I hear something." This arresting gesture dramatizes not the women's power BUT their vulnerability".

    I mentioned this segment in class, and about how this vulnerability of Judith worrying about being caught is a vice. Isn't vulnerability a negative characteristic? Wouldn't it classify as a vice of Judith's? even if she seemed vulnerable for just one split second in the painting? On the contrary though, that painting IS that one single moment of Judith looking off into the distance, determining if someone is there or not. This action does not take away from her power as a whole- she was an extremely powerful women especially for her time- but I just wanted to bring this point up.

    Anyway, I saw Artemisia. Thought it was ok. THEN I read the articles. I now extremely dislike Artemisia (movie). I agree with almost all the points that were made in class, about how this brave female painter was turned into an object in the movie and to the viewer. If another movie about Artmeisia is ever made, please for the love of Jah, let them portray everything with historical accuracy and not for the satisfaction of Hollywood fat cats.