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This research focuses on the twentieth century rediscovery of the seventeenth-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi by scholars, novelists, playwrights, filmmakers, and artists. I argue that the various authors who told her story constructed two distinct “Artemisias,” what I identify as the “Academic Artemisia” and the “Celebrity Artemisia.” The “Academic Artemisia” results from writings by scholars focused on her 1610 Susanna and the Elders, who used approaches from formalism and connoisseurship, to feminism and iconography. The “Celebrity Artemisia” stems from popular fictions that refashioned the life and art of Artemisia according to pop culture tastes. Studying what has been said about Artemisia’s life – great woman artist in a time when patriarchy allowed few, survivor of rape, slandered in a public trial, married matron, and single mother – reveals why her story captivates art historians and fans, especially women who identify with her struggle. However, it is also made evident that while scholars are bound to the historical evidence, writers of fictional narratives in novels, plays, and the film have drastically revised “Artemisia” into a twentieth-century heroine.
Advisor: Marissa Vigneault