A courtroom sketch of Ghislaine Maxwell, the companion and alleged accomplice of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, is going viral. The drawing depicts Maxwell apparently staring directly at the courtroom artist — and sketching her right back.
The uncanny image is the work of Jane Rosenberg, known for sketching the high-profile trials of El Chapo, Bill Cosby, Bernie Madoff, and Harvey Weinstein, among many others, as well as a separate plein air painting practice. Since this Monday, November 29, she has been portraying scenes from Manhattan’s federal courthouse in the trial of Maxwell, who is accused of aiding Epstein in recruiting, grooming, and trafficking girls as young as 14.
Rosenberg says it’s not the first time this happens. In her 40-year-plus career as a courtroom artist, she’s caught herself being drawn twice before: during the 1987 trial of actor Eddie Murphy and in the much more recent trial of Lev Parnas, convicted of campaign finance violations this October.
“When it first happened, I was like, what’s going on? Why are people sketching me? In Parnas’s trial, the co-defendant was sketching me madly,” Rosenberg told Hyperallergic. Maxwell, who was drawing Rosenberg during pretrial, “still makes eye contact and nods her head” at the artist everyday, she added.
When asked how she feels about being the subject of Maxwell’s artwork, Rosenberg said, “I’ve got enough of her drawings, so it’s not even close to being even.”
As a jury of 12 hears arguments to determine whether Maxwell was Epstein’s accomplice or a pawn in his crimes, Rosenberg’s sketch of the disgraced socialite mirroring the artist is causing a stir online, with some calling it “creepy” and “horrific.”
“I love this/hate this, because it’s a perfect portrait of a person who is used to having power over other people, trying to hold on to a vestige of that power,” Twitter user @Tom_S_Juniper said. The initial post, shared by @DJWillMartin, now has over 40,000 likes.
It’s worth noting that while courtroom artists are allowed to draw Maxwell and other figures in the room, they may not depict her accusers. Last month, and despite the defense’s protestations, Judge Alison J. Nathan ruled that prosecutors can describe Maxwell’s accusers as “victims,” meaning they can testify using pseudonyms and that courtroom artists are prohibited from drawing their likeness.
Cameras are barred in federal courts: in 1994, the US Judicial Conference rejected proposed amendments to allow recording in criminal and civil proceedings, citing in the case of the latter “the intimidating effect of cameras on some witnesses and jurors.”
In Rosenberg’s stirring sketch, which is poised to join other celebrated high-profile trial artworks, she captures Maxwell appearing anything but intimidated by the artist’s presence.
“And she’s a nose-masker,” one Twitter user observed, referring to Maxwell’s apparent improper use of a face covering. “Of course.”