The Trial of Artemisia Gentileschi

From Tracy Marks:

Little is known about the circumstances under which Agostino Tassi was charged for raping Artemisia Gentileschi, but scholars believe that her father heard rumors and confronted them both. Both Cosimo Quorli (who had tried but failed to rape Artemisia, who had stolen one of her paintings, and who had helped Agostino plan visits to her house when her father was absent) were charged. The trial lasted for seven months in 1612, and received considerable publicity.

The transcripts of the trial, included in Mary Garrard’s Artemisia Gentileschi, reveal that:
a) Tuzia, supposedly an older friend of Artemisia who lived in the same house as the Gentileschi’s, betrayed Artemisia by letting Agostino in to Artemisia’s house through her apartment.

b) Agostino was a convicted rapist, who had previously served time in jail, and had been known to have raped both his sister-in-law and his previous wife. His wife was missing, presumed dead, and everyone believed that he had hired bandits to kill her. Artemisia did not know that he was married until the middle of the trial.

c) Agostino was obsessed with Artemisia, had prevented her from marrying Modenese, whom her father had arranged for her to marry, had spied on her and hired men to watch her around the clock, and had been known to have many jealous rages in regard to her proximity to other men. He also had bragged to many that he had deflowered her.

d) Since the first sexual encounter, Agostino had been continually promising Artemisia that he would marry her, and continually postponing the marriage, but using his promise as a means of convincing her to continue sexual relations with him.

During the trial, Artemisia was tortured with the sibille, thumbscrews, involving cords of rope tied around her hands and pulled tightly, in order to “prove” that she was telling the truth. During the torture, which of course seriously injured her hands, she was repeatedly asked whether or not Tassi had raped her, and she continually responded, “it is true, it is true.”

Read more about Gentileschi here

American Feminist Artist

Barbara Kruger is an artist whose work is primarily concerned with issues of feminism, consumerism, and power. She began her career in the 1960s as a graphic designer and photographic editor for Mademoiselle magazine. The influence of commercial art is evident throughout her work. Initially, Kruger worked with textiles during the late 1960s and early ’70s, when feminist art was reclaiming the aesthetics and politics associated with handcrafts. Later, she combined her own photographs with original text and this process led to her signature style, one that incorporates found imagery with politicized slogans. These works masterfully employ the look and feel of propaganda, while subverting propaganda’s traditional alliance with the cultural elite and powerful. Kruger’s sloganeering confronts and questions the dominant culture. Her art has been exhibited internationally including the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (1983), Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1999), and Palazzo delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea in Siena, Italy (2002).

Untitled (Questions), from 1991, appropriates the United States flag to pose various questions regarding authority and power. The red and white stripes are replaced with incisive questions, beginning with “Who is free to choose?” escalating to “Who dies first?” and finally “Who laughs last?” The stars are replaced with the words “Look for the moment when pride becomes contempt.” The juxtaposition of provocative text with the iconography of the flag creates a tension that belies the formal simplicity of the work. In an era when the concept of patriotism is anything but clear, this artwork encourages a critical look at American values.


The following is an excerpt from an interview with Barbara Kruger conducted by Thyrza Nichols Goodeve in the November 1997 issue of Art in America, titled “The Art of Public Address.”

TNG: Your use of language emphasizes communication and contact; you’re not just saying, “Look here, I’m going to give you an idea.” Direct address has always been an important feature of your work.

BK: The brevity of the text is about cutting through the grease. I just want to address people in a very forthright manner. It is why I always use pronouns, because they cut through in the same way. Direct address has been a consistent tactic in my work, regardless of the medium that I’m working in. I try to deal with the complexities of power and social life, but as far as the visual presentation goes I purposely avoid a high degree of difficulty. I want people to be drawn into the space of the work. And a lot of people are like me in that they have relatively short attention spans. So I shoot for the window of opportunity.

Tribute to Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger at art: 21

More Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger at Artcyclopedia