Arte, a young noble girl, has enjoyed her father’s indulgence and patience as she spends her days focused solely on perfecting her artistic talents. After her father’s unfortunate passing, her mother insists on Arte giving up her ‘distractions’ so she can find a good husband to take care of her. Instead, Arte sets off determined to make it as an artisan no matter how many masters turn her away because of her gender. When the infamous Leo takes her under his wing, he is strict and demanding yet finds Arte flourishing under his guiding hand.
This seems like a perfect recipe for a cookie-cutter spunky girl who is abrasive to those who doubt her and yet comically ill-prepared to deal with matters that usually affect guys more. Sometimes shows with these sorts of characters end up pushing the narrative so hard they make the girls either so OP they aren’t really much at all like a normal girl (and thus a poor example for female empowerment) or they make her so whiny and combative that it becomes harder to root for them. Unfortunately, people find it much easier to get behind a well-behaved victim. Arte is such an amazing character because she manages to shatter stereotypes without ‘losing her femininity’. Read on as we discuss Arte as an example of female empowerment!
-- Spoilers Ahead! --
Master of Her Own Fate
With the setting being in the 16th century, in Italy to be exact, it’s no surprise that everyone seems to have very set notions of what women and men are capable of with little basis in reality. Arte’s role, like countless women before and after her, is to find a good man who can support her for the rest of her life and, in return, provide him with children. This sort of life based on societally-decided transactions is repulsive to her. Arte wants to create a life for herself based on her true worth, should she succeed or fail.
This desire to be a master of her fate gives her the strength to challenge biased views against her as well as to take no handouts one would give to a lady. She rejects both the perks and the chains of being a 16th-century woman. She’s not apologetic about being unwanted nor is she needlessly hostile and competitive. She insists upon the various art masters looking at her work and she doesn’t become belligerent or allow herself to cry even when she’s manhandled. Arte knows this is how men are expected to act and she is willing to play by their rules in exchange for a fair shot. Men aren’t immediately exempt from unfair practices and physical labor as punishments so Arte takes all of it in stride. Even when Master Danilo demands she carry 10 giant, heavy bags that usually take 2 men to carry, Arte is glad for such an obviously unfair task as it will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt she’s worthy of being there.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Arte isn’t trying to create drastic change in the guilds or force others to make allowances for her even to make work more ‘even’. In this way, she wins over the most antagonistic and hateful people she comes across. She doesn’t go on lengthy tirades about the theoretical benefit of including women that judging people wouldn’t listen to anyway. Arte lets her actions make her case. This, even more than her talent, is what prompts Leo to take her on. Life was similarly unfair to him as beggars were also looked down on and excluded from most guilds. Your station in life was thought to reveal the extent of your life’s potential. Leo knows that trying to force people to support you or change their opinions doesn’t work as well as making them think they changed their minds on their own. Leo makes a huge deal of being tougher on Arte than anyone else is on their apprentices and Arte absolutely makes a show of never being daunted and taking every criticism to heart. This isn't a girl suffering silently, resigned to being mistreated. These are a master and apprentice who know how to play the game and it shows both their resilience and their craftiness.
Another reason that makes Arte a great character for women without pushing a weird agenda that actually minimizes the validity of women is her friendship with the courtesan Veronica. Prostitutes were looked down on even as some were highly regarded by the men that used them and prostitution was considered a sordid occupation. Arte neither dismisses Veronica entirely due to her lack of purity nor totally embraces her as a person that can do no wrong. Arte and Veronica are seemingly opposites but are two sides of the same coin. Arte is never a fan of Veronica’s profession but instantly recognizes her dedication and determination to succeed. Veronica is neither victim nor cruel sadist either, simply a woman who, like Arte, will take her future in her own hands. Even as she toys with men’s hearts to keep them wanting, she steels her own heart so that she can provide for herself and her family as well as enjoy her life. Arte can’t agree with everything Veronica does but still recognizes that she can learn much from the older woman who is happy to oblige. Arte believes you don’t have to be perfect to be valid and treats others with the kindness and understanding she is so often denied in her own occupation.
We’re happy to see a strong female lead that wasn’t made tough by suffering or abuse. Instead, Arte is a girl who has always had a strong sense of self and that continues to shine through even in tough moments. She’s constantly looking to increase her skills not just in painting, but in life too. Arte even uses her femininity (thanks to the wise teachings of Veronica) when she sees opportunity for success for her teacher but not when it would just benefit her at the expense of overshadowing her skills. We can’t wait to see how Arte will continue to grow as both an artist and a person!