Yanelys Nuñez Leyva
HAVANA TIMES – A few days ago I finished reading one of the used books that I bought at a good price in the last Havana International Book Fair. It’s a biography of the Roman painter, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653).
The most profound reference that I had previously found about her was in an article by Reynaldo González, published in 2003 in the magazine “Revolution and Culture” .
Given the intriguing and controversial nature of her work, I didn’t hesitate in taking advantage of this opportunity to read more. The book was written by Rauda Jamis, a writer hitherto unknown to me, but who has also authored a biography of Frida Khalo published by “Circe”, the same company that now presented that of Artemisia.
The book is divided into chapters whose titles refer to varieties of pigments. It narrates chronologically the history of this woman of the XVII century, who as part of the supposed “weaker sex” and as an artist, had to confront numerous traumas and difficulties.
She was raped by her painting teacher and exposed to the social scandal of a trial that was held regarding this, in an epoch when women were not permitted any life that was not one of submission and servility towards men and towards society, in a way far more inflexible that it is now.
The biography, written in first person as a personal diary, gives us Artemisia’s impressions of the people and the atmosphere that surrounded her, her moods, her travels, her sensitivities and of course her passion for art.
For my taste, the book goes on a bit too much in some parts and fails to take advantage of the opportunity to publish a large portion of the letters, testimonies and manuscripts related to Artemisia that the author consulted, according to the evidence presented in the “succinct bibliography” that appears at the end of the book. Instead, these appear only in very small doses.
Gentileschi, an impetuous follower of the tenebrism style of the Italian painter Caravaggio managed to become recognized by important patrons of her era, and to support herself and her family (she had two children: Prudenza and Porzia) with her artistic work.
In the words of Rauda Jamis, however, she saw herself as “only a painter, a humble servant of an art that is only one code more in the search for truth.”