Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.

Aurelien Hannoyer


Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi

I was raped at the age of seventeen. I was raped when I was only a child by two friends of my father. Not only my body was raped, but also my soul and my heart, and forever. Let me tell you my story, because a few centuries ago, long before you, I was raped, me too.

I was born in the late sixteenth century in Italy; the eldest child of a painter. My father would give me life, and his passion. When my mother died, I was only thirteen. The light that was guiding me until then was now gone and I could not help looking for it. Following the works of Caravaggio, light and darkness were fighting on my canvas, like the inner fight I was having. Soon, it appeared that I was more gifted than my brothers and my father taught me even more. In exchange, I would add some chiaroscuro to his works. I really loved painting. Though my heart was sore, my soul was awakened every day by the light and color I could put on the canvas.

On the ninth of May 1611, when I was only seventeen years old, when I was only a maid, Agostino Tassi, one of my father’s coworkers, and Cosimo Quorli, one of his friends, took advantage of me and raped me. Remember their names, Agostino and Cosimo, because I will never forget them. They raped my body and my soul, they took my virginity away, forever. They beat me up and put a tissue in my mouth so that I could not speak anymore, or defend myself. They put themselves inside of me and I could not do anything. I cried out for Tuzia’s help, the tenant of our home upstairs, but ignored me, and I knew she was there. Then, when their business was done, they left me on the floor, lying in my own blood. For the following months, I tried to persuade myself that Agostino would marry me and that shame would not stain my family’s name. He even promised it, but it never came. He broke his promise, like he had broken my hymen.

The more I thought about it, the further it was flying away. The more I thought about it, the more it was driving me crazy. At some point, I told myself that I would not undergo it any longer. I could not tolerate it. I was not a victim and I would not intend to be one, ever. I had done no harm, they had. I had done nothing wrong, they did. So I decided that I was not going to be a victim here. I would sue them and I would prove my right. For the same reasons that I would not be a victim of a rape, I would choose the work I really wanted to do. Not the one my father wanted me to, not the one the men wanted me to, not the one women were supposed to do, but the one work that I really wanted to do. I wanted to be a painter and I was going to be one.

In this particular matter, my father understood me and was on my side. Nine months after my rape, we pressed charges against Agostino Tassi. He had also stolen a painting from my father’s workplace. During the trial, we discovered that the man was a real devil. He had planned to kill his wife, he had sex with his sister-in-law, he had planned to steal several of my father’s works, and he had taken my virginity. To verify my version, I even had to undergo torture. It was more than humiliating. At the end of the trial, Agostino was exiled even though he came back, and it was like nothing had ever happened. At the same time, I was painting Judith Slaying Holofernes, putting all my rage and my anger in the dark parts of the picture, and all the pride and strength I could find in the lighter parts.

Soon after these events, my father arranged a marriage with a local painter, Pierantonio.

In my life, I painted dozens of canvases and I did what I wanted. I was even the first woman ever accepted to the Academy of the Arts of Drawing. I would never forget this horrible experience, but I defeated the shame, and I fought for myself and all women. Throughout my life, I never ceased to fight for women’s rights.

I was a woman, I was a painter, I was not a victim. My name is Artemisia Gentileschi.


About the writer:
Aurélien “Al” Hannoyer was born in 1990 near Paris, France. He began writing songs, poems, and short stories at the age of six. Always passionate about reading fantasy books above all, he did literary studies and then got his master’s degree in marketing, communications, and management. He has written two novels, several short stories, and some poetry. He now lives in Paris. Three of his poems have been published by The Antonym Magazine in May 2021. Hannoyer’s work The Arising City is featured on Instagram.

Image: Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653). Oil on canvas. 62.5 x 49.4 inches. Between 1611 and 1612. Public domain.

Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.