Author Susan Vreeland


An extensive interview and additional discussion topics are available on Penguin Author Interview and Readers Guide.

1. Orazio is seen by Artemisia as the cause of her misfortunes. To what degree is this a fair assessment? How did the attitudes and strictures of the time influence him?

2. When Sister Graziela gives Artemisia the pearl earring, she also gives her some advice. How did she follow and not follow this advice? When it's her turn to give advice to Palmira, she reduces it to one line. Why did she make that choice?

3. Sometimes, it's too easy to assume that in centuries past, women were victims of gender prejudice and limitations. What negative events in Artemisia's experience were caused by her own thinking and actions? What better decisions could she have made? What advantages did Artemisia have as a woman?

4. Was Artemisia a good mother? Why or why not?

5. In what ways did Galileo influence Artemisia?

6. What poor decisions did Artemisia make regarding Pietro?

7. To what extent was Graziela in control of her own fate?

8. In what ways does the term passion apply to Artemisia, Orazio, Galileo, and Graziela?

9. Of all her paintings, which one(s) was she most passionate about? Which one(s) do you favor?

10. Artemisia told Palmira, "To be a painter, you've got to care for people, for their feelings." Why did she believe this? Is it true for all art in all time periods?

11. How has Artemisia influenced the minor female characters--Umiliana, Fina, Vanna, Renata, Paola? What has she learned from them? How are they representatives of the time, or exceptions to the social mores?

12. Through what stages must Artemisia grow if she is to reconcile with her father? What experiences move her in that direction, or away from that direction?

13. In what sense was Artemisia religious? What applications in her life do you see of the Magnificat that the nuns sang, and the dictum Optimam Partem Elegit, "Choose the better way," which Artemisia wrote on the chair of Mary Magdalene?

14. How is Michelangelo's Pieta echoed by the characters?

15. Artemisia asked her father, "Haven't you ever felt like shouting, 'Look. Look and let this beauty transform your heart'?" Has this happened to her? What beauties?

16. If Artemisia, the woman with the same history, lived in the nineteenth century, what do you think she'd be painting? What would her style(s) be like?

17. If Artemisia could have seen the scope of art history after her as well as before, which artists would she have admired and why?