Reading guide for The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

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The Passion of Artemisia

by Susan Vreeland

The Passion of Artemisia
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2002, 320 pages
    Jan 2003, 368 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Sometimes, it's too easy to assume that in centuries past, women were victims of gender prejudice and limitations. What negative events in Artemisia's experience were caused by her own thinking and actions? What better decisions could she have made? What advantages did Artemisia have as a woman?

  2. Orazio is seen by Artemisia as the cause of her misfortunes. To what degree is this a fair assessment? How did the attitudes and strictures of the time influence him? Limit his alternatives? Blind him?

  3. When Sister Graziela gives Artemisia the pearl earring, she also gives her some advice. How did she follow and not follow this advice? When it's her turn to give advice to Palmira, she reduces it to one line. Why did she make that choice?

  4. In what ways did Galileo influence Artemisia? She said to him, "Even stone bears the footprints of many men." How does this apply to women and to her in particular?

  5. To what extent was Graziela in control of her own fate? In what ways does the term "passion" apply to Graziela, Orazio, Galileo, and Artemisia? How is Michelangelo's Pietà echoed by the characters?

  6. Artemisia told Palmira, "To be a painter, you've got to care for people, for their feelings." Why did she believe this? Is it true for all art in all time periods? In her time period?

  7. How has Artemisia influenced the minor female charactersUmiliana, Fina, Vanna, Renata, Paola? What has she learned from them? How are they representatives of the time, or exceptions to the social mores?

  8. Through what stages must Artemisia grow if she is to reconcile with her father? What experiences move her in that direction, or away from that direction? Did they love each other?

  9. Artemisia asked her father, "Haven't you ever felt like shouting, 'Look. Look and let this beauty transform your heart'?" Has this happened to her? What beauties?

  10. Of all her paintings, which one(s) was she most passionate about? Which one(s) do you favor? Hypothetically, if Artemisia, the woman with the same history, lived in the nineteenth century, what do you think she'd be painting? What would her style(s) be like? If she could have seen the scope of art history after her as well as before, which artists would she have admired and why? Which ones do you?

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Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Penguin. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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