One Painting, Many Women
One patient tells our Naples-based Dottoré about trauma and aptly-named victims.
“Dottoré, when I was a kid, I was told at catechism:
‘Do you know that you have the name of a bad woman? When she was a child, a man hurt her very badly, but instead of forgiving, she harbored angry feelings. When she got older, that hatred pushed her to make horrible paintings, depicting scenes of terrible violence. You should not become like her. You must learn to forgive and transform hatred into love. This is the only way you can become a good wife, mother, and woman who will be welcomed into heaven.’”
“And how did you react to this?”
“I ran to my mom and asked her why she would give me such a name. I had never been curious about it before. She told me that when she was pregnant with me, she worked as a cleaner at a museum where she found a painting that she really loved. That’s why she decided to name me after the painter.
So then I asked her, ‘But mum, did you know that the painter was an evil woman?’
My mother looked at me and said:
‘Evil? When has a painting ever hurt anyone?’
Then as I grew up, I became aware of more things. When my mother was little she had been raped, and the truth is that she loved that painting because it depicted a woman getting revenge over the man who had hurt her. But my mom didn’t know anything about the painter’s story, just her name.”
“And what about you, now that you know the painter’s story?”
“Unfortunately I don’t have the same courage as her, that of bringing the matter to the law. I’m not like her, but I'm also not like the catechist would have liked me to be. I am a good woman, wife and mother. I may not be welcomed into heaven, but I prefer not to forgive.”
“So, is this your way of telling me that you have been a victim of violence too?”
“Yes, Dottoré, and that’s why I’m here with you. I owe it to my mother, to the painter, and to myself. You must help me earn my name. I am Artemesia.”
Learn more about Worldcrunch's exclusive Dottoré! series here.
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