Blood Water Paint

by Joy McCullough

In early 17 th -century Rome, Artemisia Gentileschi, 17, has surpassed her father’s... read more

In early 17 th -century Rome, Artemisia Gentileschi, 17, has surpassed her father’s skill as a painter but gets no credit for her work because she is a woman. Artemisia’s late mother told her about the Biblical figures of Susanna and Judith, wanting Artemisia to understand the struggles of the two women—the things they suffered simply for being women—as well as their courage and bravery, none of which Artemisia sees reflected in the work of men who’ve painted them. When her father hires Agostino Tassi to tutor her in perspective, Artemisia is happy to learn from a better teacher, and their mutual attraction leads her to believe he may propose. Then he rapes her. Artemisia makes the decision to publicly charge him. The burden of proof placed on her by the court is emotionally and physically brutal, and it is visions of Susanna and Judith that she draws upon for strength. This extraordinary, enraging, astonishing novel based on true events is told primarily in verse, with stories about Judith and Susanna interspersed in prose. McCullough’s research included over 300 pages of transcripts from the 1611 trial. Artemisia won her case (although the sentence for Tassi was laughable), but her true triumph, more fully documented in an author’s note, is in what came next: A career as a painter—more than 50 of her works survive. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2019

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