Italy, 1610. Artemisia (Valentina Cervi) is seventeen years old and has inherited her
well-known painter-father Orazio’s (Michel Serrault) talent and passion for painting.
But painting is forbidden for women, who are not able to attend art classes, nor have male
models to pose nude. Artemisia gets her father to agree for the famous painter Agostino
Tassi (Miki Manojlovic) to give her lessons and teach her technique of perspective.
Agostino and Artemisia fall in love - Agostino is captivated by her youth, beauty and
talent, while she is fascinated by him. But Orazio, who is devastated by what has
happened, wants to uphold his daughter’s name, and wants revenge. Artemisia breaks
with her family and eventually attains tragic fame and in due course, becomes a painter.
"As exquisite as a beautiful painting, Artemisia may not translate as historic
fact, but it’s a seductive film, gloriously shot with a compelling performance by the
dazzling Valentina Cervi. Agnès Merlet convincingly depicts the conservative essence of
the seventeenth century, whose repressive society is at odds with its immorality. As in
Yentl, where women were not allowed to read books, here it is forbidden for women to paint
or draw, let alone sketch male genitalia. And there lies Artemisia’s obsession.
Interesting to observe how the art of the day is portrayed: it is fascinating to glimpse a
behind-the-scenes approach to the painting of frescos, and observe the introduction of the
use of a frame for painting out of doors. But you don’t have to know anything about
art to enjoy Artemisia. Evoking the senses of touch, sight and sound, the mood is sensual,
the topic passionate. While naked bodies are mostly portrayed for the sake of art, the
love scenes are intricate and erotic. The events in the courtroom during the rape-trial
are somewhat melodramatic although the scene where nuns examine Artemisia, to ascertain
her purity, is nothing short of shocking. Supported by a solid cast of veterans like
Michel Serrault and Miki Manojlovic, Cervi is showcased to perfection. Shot in stunning
locations with a lyrical score effecting vivacity and movement, Artemisia is a poetic and
enchanting portrayal of 17th century artistic life."
Email this article
CAST: Valentina Cervi, Michel Serrault, Miki Manojlovic
DIRECTOR: Agnès Merlet
PRODUCER: Patrice Haddad, Leo Pescarolo, Christoph Meyer-Wiel
SCRIPT: Agnès Merlet, Patrick Amos, Christine Miller
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Benoit Delhomm
MUSIC: Krishna Levy
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: New Vision
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 9,1998 - Sydney; Melb- August 13
VIDEO RELEASE: December 8, 1999
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 21st Century
Find out more about the Australian film industry on Wiki