II. FIRE

Gentileschi’s pictorial themes and her very own artistic gesture is set on fire by an angry power, whose echo remains as a ghost after many centuries.

Firstly revaluated by Italian critic and art historian Roberto Longhi, Artemisia’s tumultuous life inspired Longhi’s wife, Anna Banti, to write a novel about it. In the post war years Banti's novel decreed Artemisia’s success in the collective imagination as a romantic and adventurous figure, making impossible to unlink her work from her life ever after.

During World War II Anna Banti had lost her first manuscript which had been burnt by Nazi troops escaping from Italy. In the published novel, the very memory of the lost manuscript, the memory of all those burnt pages and of that first attempt to portray Artemisia, devoured by flames, is the engine of the story.

 

 

Claudio MONTEVERDI
Se i languidi miei sguardi (Lettera amorosa a voce sola in genere rappresentativo) (Madrigali guerrieri e amorosi Libro VII, Venezia, Bartolomeo Magni, 1619)

 

If my languishing looks,
if my suppressed sighs,
if my unfinished words,
have not yet,
oh my life,
proved my passion,
read these notes,
believe this letter,
in this letter in which
like the ink, my heart bled.
There you shall see
the secret thoughts
that with loving gait wander
in my soul;
so, shall you see burn
as in its own sphere,
by your beauty, my fire.

There is nothing in you
that does not drag me
with the invisible power of love:
I am nothing more than prey and prize
of your beauty.
To you I turn, oh, hair,
beloved braids of gold:
ah, how shall I escape
if you have tied my soul like a plait,
and bought it like gold?
You, for you are
the chain and the price of my freedom.
My jewels,
fair divine twine,
you are used by eternal Parca
on her fatal spindle, weaving of my life.

You, you braids of gold,
you belong to she
who is all my fire, my rays and lightning:
for, if lightning you are,
why unlike fire,
do you descend?
Ah, you need descend to go up,
the high heaven that you yearn for,
oh, sphere of passion, oh, paradise,
lives in that radiant face.

My beloved forest of gold,
finest braids,
in you Love wove a labyrinth
where the soul is lost.
Can death cut the branches
of the lovely wood,
and from delicate flesh
free my spirit,
but in such a beautiful, yet pruned, canopy,
I shall remain captive,
made cold dust and knotted shadow.

Sweetest twine
my beautiful golden rain
each drop falling
from those rich clouds
that hold you
and, in falling, you make
pretty storms
and break waves and waves of gold,
swiftly shaded,
in crags of milk and rivers of alabaster
(oh, eternal miracle
of loving desire),
in those beautiful storms my heart was burnt.

But now the hour bids me,
oh, faithful messenger of my affection,
precious love letter,
to separate my quill from you;
go, and if love and the courteous sky
prevent the rays
of her eyes from burning you,
find shelter in her lovely breast:
that per chance you reach out
from such a blessed place,
across snow-covered paths to a heart of fire.

 

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