Arte does much in evaluating the reviewer’s sense of masculinism (an explanation of what I mean by this male-blather should arrive in the comments if worthwhile; in the review itself it would be superfluous … and bothersome). While viewing a wonderful tale of a young noble girl with so much charm, one can find it hard to fathom that she is striving to achieve what would have been impossible in her times ... to become an artist.
It’s a marvel that in these twelve episodes, we have a neat story told in three arcs 1) the bleak episodes where we are told that we are in sixteen century Florence, the height of the Renaissance, an era where it truly sucked to be a girl growing up with any dreams of being anything ... 2) the apprenticeship with Leo, who has ... well, ‘befriended’ might be the right word, maybe not. But we have someone in Arte’s corner who will tolerate her attempts to learn the skills needed to be a respectable artist, and, more importantly, enable her to make her own way in Italian society. … 3) the time as retainer to the Falier family, both as tutor to the young, free-spirited Katherine (aka, destroyer of tutors) and family portrait painter. Then, the conclusion … what path shall Arte choose?
So much of importance is taken up in the first arc. We have Arte's background, allowed by her doting father to have art lessons, but on his death, her mother burns her sketches. Marriage to wealth or the convent are Arte's options, in the opinion of her domineering mother. Arte moves out in a desperate search for a master who would agree to apprentice her. Cue the Mission Impossible theme, please. Arte is rejected by all the masters of the artisan workshops, except for Leo, who hears Arte's pleadings and is reminded of a poor street urchin who sought the same opportunity long ago to train to become a painter.
The second portion is Arte's progress as an apprentice. Here the series tries to demonstrate the difficulties Arte will have to be taken seriously as an apprentice. She begs permission to sketch a competitor’s statuary and is refused. To gain his hard-won permission, Arte performs a task that would exhaust two men and accomplishes it. But the task has worn down her muscle tone that she cannot do the sketch work. But the master admires her pluck and gives her permission to come back when it returns. Later, she must dress as a boy to attend a dissection of a cadaver ... obviously a girl would destroy the ambiance. She must arrange the repairs to the roof-top shack to be her quarters. She sternly rejects the help of the boy Angelo Parker (a quaint bit of nomenclature, if you ask me), though she has the tact to apologize later and explain her reasons for hauling the lumber for this renovation project by herself. Arte must be forever proving herself, and she cannot afford the help of any male.
Throughout the series we do meet other women who reflect the difficulty of a woman to achieve anything in these enlightened Renaissance times. Veronica is a courtesan, which, in Leo's explanation, is nothing more than a prostitute. Yet, she is extremely cultured and well-read, though unwilling to give her heart to anyone. Darcia, Arte's friend, is a maid who either admires Arte for her accomplishments, or has no idea what to think of her. Lady Sophia Falier, a woman of great beauty, is a prime example of the refined lady of the day, one who has the looks but needs the voice. Katherine, Arte's ward, is a precocious child who wishes to cook, but realizes her noble position would refuse her this pleasant hobby. Arte assures her that she recognizes her own love for art as a similar situation and works to assure Katherine's time in the kitchen will never be taken from her. A girl has a right to pursue her own happiness.
The animation is pleasant, the pastel tones of scenery affecting the soft feminine style which Arte renders in her own work. It makes for an excellent representation of the woman's touch in a world of sterner tones from the hands of the male artisans. This is reflected in the work Arte returns to finish for an ailing Leo, a ceiling painting of a local chapel. A project so polished that it causes Arte’s mother to marvel and reconsider her own misgivings about Arte’s artistic talents.
The series is charming in its music and especially the final symbolic closing theme. Arte ascends a staircase as her works and portraits trickle about her. She wishes to reach the level of her master Leo, and after twelve episodes, we stop, fully assured that Arte is well on her way.