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Rape Testimony

May 14, 1612 — Before the Curia, Papal Court, Rome, Vatican


My lord, I am ready to confirm my statement under torture and whatever must be done. . . .

[Agostino Tassi] having found me painting, said to me: “Don’t paint so much, don’t paint so much.”

[Gentileschi said Tassi grabbed her paintbrushes and palette and hurled them across the room, then bundled her into the bedroom and locked the door.]

He then threw me onto the edge of the bed, pushing me with a hand on my breast, and he put a knee between my thighs to prevent me from closing them. Lifting my clothes, he placed a hand with a handkerchief on my mouth to keep me from screaming.

I scratched his face and pulled his hair and, before he penetrated me again, I grasped his penis so tight that I even removed a piece of flesh. 

[Afterward, she grabbed a knife and said. . . ]

I’d like to kill you with his knife because you have dishonored me.

[Tassi opened his coat and taunted her by saying, “Here I am.”]

[She threw the knife at him.]

He shielded himself. Otherwise I would have hurt him and might easily have killed him.

[The judge asked if she had bled.]

At the time the said Agostino attacked me, I was having my period and therefore I am not able to say certainly to your lordship whether my vagina bled because of what Agostino did, because I did not know much about how these things happen; but it is true that it seemed to me that the blood was redder than usual. . . .

[Gentileschi said she took a knife from a drawer and threatened Tassi with it.]

I want to kill you because you have shamed me.

[On May 14, 1612, Gentileschi was taken to Tassi’s cell. She was asked to repeat her claim of rape to his face, which she did. He denied it. A  judge then asked if Gentileschi would stand by her story under torture. With Tassi watching, cords were wrapped around her fingers and pulled tighter and tighter, crushing them.]

I have told the truth and always will because it is true, and I will do what is needed to confirm it. 

It’s true, it’s true, it’s true. (E vero, e vero, e vero, e vero.)



Source: Artemisia Gentileschi: The Images of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art, by Mary D. Gerrard (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 1989.


Also: Daily Mail, 29 September, 2020.