I stood on the first floor of the Uffizi in Florence, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, just a few weeks into my semester living in Italy. One specific piece of art captivated me. The nameplate alongside the painting read “Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Holofernes, c. 1620-1621, Oil on canvas.” I was curious about who this woman was, and what could have inspired her to recreate such a grotesque event. I decided to read about her life, and only then was I able to appreciate the painting. In order to illustrate my newfound understanding, I composed a poem which I called, “The Passion of Judith.”
The artist’s story intrigued me. After being raped at the age of 18, she was tortured and placed on trial as the perpetrator rather than the victim. This painting was her response. The action within the picture was a mirror image of the emotions of the artist herself, in her own way a tortured and vengeful soul. Gentileschi was one of the only women to become a remarkable painter in the post-Renaissance period, and her influence on future female artists is inspiring to any woman.
If someone has curiosity and motivation, and he or she can apply that to a new experience or interest, knowledge grows. My thirst for information about Gentileschi brought me to the discovery of the meaning of her most famous painting, and my poem evolved. I felt the inspiration to create. Instead of paint, words were my medium of choice. Constant curiosity and a drive to discover correlations are qualities I see in many aspects of my life, from truths I have drawn from poetry to my fascination with outer space. With this development of concrete knowledge comes an additional gift: an appreciation for the abstract. In discovering the symbolism of the Scarlet Letter or locating the adipose tissue in a chicken leg dissection, I am welcomed into a world of possibility. Once a part of this world I might thirst for more information, or yearn to create something similar on my own terms. I am capable of being inspired.
Gentileschi’s life is fascinating, from her deepest downfalls to her most profound triumphs. But it is the way she expressed herself, the way she chose to convey her experiences to the rest of the world that is so beautiful. The connections I discovered from reading about her and seeing her painting stayed with me throughout every museum I saw in Italy, and continue to enhance my present appreciation for art. My work at school and my life away from the classroom demonstrate my thirst for knowledge, from the classes I choose to the friends with whom I surround myself. I am capable of many things, but the ones that begin with an inspiration are the ones that become successful. My desire to learn stems from a bottomless curiosity, a curiosity which I hope will mold me into a well-rounded, insightful person—the image of a modern day Renaissance woman.
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