McCullough’s debut novel, which garnered critical acclaim and a Morris nomination in 2018 deftly fictionalizes the true story of a young woman named Artemisia Gentileschi. Gentileschi made waves as a 17th century baroque painter, as well as the first woman to try her rapist in court. McCullough’s beautiful novel is told in lyrical verse, framing Antemisia’s difficult story with the greek chorus of two strong biblical woman, who also happened to be her favorite painting subjects.
Where did you first come across Artemisia’s story? Did you immediately know it was a story you wanted to shine light on? I discovered Artemisia many moons ago as a passing reference in a Margaret Atwood novel. I’d never heard of her, so I went searching. When I learned about her story, I was outraged I hadn’t heard of her before. The transcripts from her rapist’s trial still exist, and I read those with horror over how much hasn’t changed in how we treat women and sexual violence. I was immediately obsessed and wanted more people to know her story.