Name: Sharon Cilia
Title: The Quest of Artemisia
As a woman in 1610, I was forbidden to wield a sword or a mace. Yet the most dangerous weapon, I have learned through years of experience, is neither of these.
My quest to find the best weapon began when I was a child, for I was a Greek tragic hero in a different time. I lived in the glory days of Rome, when all over the city, marble heroes thundered over dead gorgons, and the likewise stone-cold nobles thundered over the Italian population. As one of those nobles, my father took it upon himself to bring me up as a pious lady of grace and virtue. However, the small girl behind the harp and the loom would look longingly out the window at the bustling world outside. She longed for the life led by the gypsies who flocked the piazzas: artists. Rome was not just the city of the sun; Rome was the city of opportunity.
Soon enough, the Greek chorus in charge of my quest began their song.
“Artemisia, be poised,” my nanny would say.
Yet all I could hear were the whispers of the chorus outside: “Michelangelo… Rafael… a genius… Caravaggio…”
The words filled me with a warmth which flurried across my chest and into my cheeks. My fingers trembled as they felt the irrevocable pull. God Himself had planted my unwavering ambition. If there was a stroke of genius in the heavens and a touch of genius in hell, my brush would see them reached and mastered. Thus, I slay misogynistic doubts with my paint and illustrated the might of my armour when my easel stilled time and lifted the burden of relentless pestering.
My father was the Oracle, uttering prophecies of my success and ingenious talent. Unfortunately, he failed to predict the fiend who was not lurking in any shadow, but rather basking in the light of my father’s friendship. To my Theseus he was the Minotaur, but the monster known as Tassi was not renowned for villainy so no Ariadne could warn me of his wrath. When he curled around my limbs like a snake and stole what many believed to be my only virtuous asset, I had no choice but to surrender to his poison. This battle left me battered and bruised.
Eventually I fought his assault with a trial, but through his titles and manhood, Tassi became the hero, and I the monster. This was when I realised how to perfect my true weapon, one which would forever aid me in fighting men who wrinkled their noses at the preposterousness of a woman with talent. Moving to Florence, I made my mark on canvases which found their place in palaces and museums as well as in people’s hearts. My final act proclaimed me a victor, not a victim.
As a woman in 1610, I was forbidden to wield a sword or a mace. Yet the most dangerous weapon anyone may have is a voice – a say in our fate at the end of our adventure.