Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens; these old masters are celebrated historical figures and household names. But there was one among their number — a woman who created Baroque masterpieces when she was just a teenager — who, despite being universally recognized as one of the greatest of her era, was forgotten for centuries after her death.
Artemisia Gentileschi, a trailblazing painter of powerful women, has been reclaimed in recent years by art historians and taken her place as a feminist icon. And now two French artists are teaming up with Philadelphia-based Beehive Books to Kickstart an English translation of the graphic biography. Their hope is to reach a new audience through the medium of comics, which allows for a rich visual portrayal of her story and her art that is unreachable through prose alone.
Originally written by Nathalie Ferlut and drawn by Tamia Baudouin, the 100-page book accurately and honestly depicts Artemisia’s life story, from her upbringing in her father’s studio to her assault at the hands of a tutor and ensuing trial, followed by the establishment of her career in Florence, which saw her create commissions for clients as powerful as the House of Medici and the English royal family.
The book also shows the creation of several of her most iconic paintings, which reinterpreted classic biblical and mythological scenes to depict women with power, agency, and subjectivity at a time when women could not even legally buy painting supplies.
Beehive’s founders have already made a name for themselves as archaeologists in the field of art history, resurrecting the works of forgotten visionaries with their oversize monographs on Herbert Crowley and Harrison Cady, two obscure 20th-century cartoonists.
“It’s vital to keep telling [the] stories of women like Artemisia to remember that history is not the sole property of men,” says Beehive’s co-founder and creative director, Maëlle Doliveux, who will be translating the book. “This book is a portrait of Artemisia making her own history.”
Beehive’s Kickstarter will remain ongoing until September 17th. The rewards will include original artwork from the book, as well as never-before-seen preliminary sketches.