cover image Artemisia


Nathalie Ferlut and Tamia Baudouin, trans. from the French by Maëlle Doliveux. Beehive, $25 (100p) ISBN 978-1-948886-11-6

This luminous graphic novel about the unconvential life of 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi is told through the eyes of her teen daughter Prudenzia, who longs to know more about her mother. At the heart of the mystery of the painter’s persona lies Artemisia’s rape at 18 by her art tutor and his subsequent trial, in which she testified under torture (her hands were bound with rope and squeezed to get her to give the details). What followed—Artemisia’s marriage, her ascendance as an artist, her travels in Italy—are relayed in flashbacks. It becomes evident how Prudenzia’s sheltered girlhood in a convent school and future marriage prospects were made possible by the money her mother earned through her art; Artemisia is portrayed as securing a quiet, stable life for her daughter so much different from her own violent coming-of-age, and from those of the biblical heroines who are the subjects of her paintings. The comics storytelling combines a formality, in beautiful depictions of the architecture of Rome and Florence and Artemisia’s sumptuous gowns, with a loose, sketchy line in the movement and expressions of the characters. The result is a vibrant and breathtaking 17th-century Italy inhabited by people who, like Artemisia herself—defiant, passionate, and proud—make the past a living place. Sure to charm lovers of art history, it’s also a standout graphic biography that does real justice to its subject. (July)