“I beg your pardon, I am a mountain tiger.” This is the only surviving sentence from the poetry of Ginevra de’ Benci, who posed for a portrait by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 1470s. The creation of this portrait is the subject of Elliott’s (Flying South) delicately beautiful novel. Ginevra, a well-educated and intelligent young woman, seeks intellectual and romantic fulfillment in the aristocratic circles of Florence. Her arranged marriage, while friendly, is dull, and the ambassador from Venice, Bernardo Bembo, wants her to be his Platonic muse—a Renaissance form of romance in which a man idealizes a woman, declaring that he will meditate on her beauty, grace, and virtue to guide his soul to God. Bembo’s love can give Ginevra access to the sparkling life of the court, but she finds the painter he hires for her portrait very distracting indeed. Elliott’s novel is thoroughly researched, portraying three-dimensional characters in a lively atmosphere of love and art. Renaissance Florence breathes through this book, bringing readers to a fuller understanding of the portrait, the era, and an indomitable young woman. Ages 13–up. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 08/24/2015 Release date: 11/10/2015 Genre: Children's
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