I KNOW WHAT I AM: THE TRUE STORY OF ARTEMESIA GENTILESCHI Part Two: $12, 7” x 10 ½”, bound, 74 pgs.

Nov 16, 2015

Part two of Gina Siciliano’s graphic novel trilogy about the tumultuous tale of Artemesia Gentileschi, one of Italy’s only top female painters of the seventeenth century. In part one we are left at the boiling point of Artemesia’s tragedy: Agostino Tassi’s rape of the teenage painter. The second chapter begins with the trial that Artemesia brought against her attacker at the advice of family friends. It’s 1612 in Catholic Rome—the very idea that a woman would not only accuse a man of deflowering her outside of marriage, but also pursue legal action for it was absolutely unheard of. There are clear moments in the beginning when her father Orazio expresses his deep disappointment in her for tarnishing their family name. (Right, as if you would be shocked by this. Sexual assault is very much dealt with by shaming the victim—even if said victim is one of the most talented and celebrated painters of her time, rivaling the immense success of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.) Throughout this graphic novel, we see an emotional tug of war between Artemesia and Agostino (who has also been accused of murdering his wife, as well as committing adultery with his sister in-law). Many times Agostino promises to marry Artemesia, that he loves her—but only if she’ll drop the case. When she doesn’t, he implores the service of every friend he can count on to lie for him in court. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is an incredibly harsh scene during the trial where Artemesia is subjected to torture in order to check if she’s lying, while the men are taken at their word. What a terrifying world to live in as a woman! In September of this year, I was lucky enough to go to Rome for the first time. While I was there I had the opportunity to pay five Euros to stand face-to-face with two of Artemesia’s paintings. Seeing her work in person, especially after reading these comics and stories about her, was nothing short of breathtaking. They instantly stood out from all the other baroque/renaissance works surrounding them in the gallery. Her ability to portray women in a realistic and respectful tone is a gaze that was definitely missing from the art world at that time. My only regret was running out of time to visit Naples in order to see Judith Slaying Holofernes, her masterpiece—in which she paints herself decapitating her attacker. This comic is full of unadulterated talent from Siciliano, both in story-telling and in the art that she lays down on the page. A historically accurate graphic novel recounting the marginalization of a woman artist is something the world certainly needs. I’m anxiously anticipating the last chapter of this tale, even if I know the outcome already. –Kayla Greet (I Know What I Am, Ouroboros Printing, ouroboros-press.bookarts.org)