Signora Da Vinci


Robin Maxwell - 2008
    His name was Leonardo, and he was destined to change the world forever. Caterina suffered much cruelty as an unmarried mother and had no recourse when her boy was taken away from her. But no one knew the secrets of her own childhood, nor could ever have imagined the dangerous and heretical scheme she would devise to protect and watch over her remarkable son. This is her story.

The Passion of Artemisia


Susan Vreeland - 2001
    From extraordinary highs - patronage by the Medicis, friendship with Galileo and, most importantly of all, beautiful and outstandingly original paintings - to rape by her father's colleague, torture by the Inquisition, life-long struggles for acceptance by the artistic Establishment, and betrayal by the men she loved, Artemisia was a bold and brilliant woman who lived as she wanted, and paid a high price.

I Am Madame X


Gioia Diliberto - 2003
    In this remarkable novel, Gioia Diliberto tells Virginie's story, drawing on the sketchy historical facts to re-create Virginie's tempestuous personality and the captivating milieu of nineteenth-century Paris. Born in New Orleans and raised on a lush plantation, Virginie fled to France during the Civil War, where she was absorbed into the fascinating and wealthy world of grand ballrooms, dressmakers' salons, and artists' ateliers. Even before Sargent painted her portrait, Virginie's reputation for promiscuity and showy self-display made her the subject of vicious Paris gossip. Immersing the reader in Belle Epoque Paris, I Am Madame X is a compulsively readable and richly imagined novel illuminating the struggle between Virginie and Sargent over the outcome of a painting that changed their lives and affected the course of art history.

The Agony and the Ecstasy


Irving Stone - 1958
    A masterpiece in its own right, this novel offers a compelling portrait of Michelangelo’s dangerous, impassioned loves, and the God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has ever known.

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici


C.W. Gortner - 2010
    We all have sins to confess. So reveals Catherine de Medici in this brilliantly imagined novel about one of history’s most powerful and controversial women. To some she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner brings Catherine to life in her own voice, allowing us to enter into the intimate world of a woman whose determination to protect her family’s throne and realm plunged her into a lethal struggle for power.  The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob. While still a teenager, she is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France, and sent from Italy to an unfamiliar realm where she is overshadowed and humiliated by her husband’s lifelong mistress. Ever resilient, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility. Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons. She allies herself with the enigmatic Protestant leader Coligny, with whom she shares an intimate secret, and implacably carves a path toward peace, unaware that her own dark fate looms before her—a fate that, if she is to save France, will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and the passion of her embattled heart. From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

Artemisia


Alexandra Lapierre - 1999
    Born to the artist Orazio Gentileschi at the beginning of the 1600s, when artists were the celebrities of the day, Artemisia was apprenticed to her father at an early age, showing such remarkable talent that he viewed her as the most precious thing in his life. But at the age of seventeen Artemisia was raped by her father's best friend and partner. The Gentileschi name was dragged through scandal, for Artemisia refused, even when tortured, to deny it happened. Indeed, she went further: she dared to plead her case in court. All of Rome was riveted by the trial. Artemisia won the case, but lost the love of her father and of all of Rome. Artemisia sought revenge through her art, portraying women liberating their fellow citizens from tyrants. Her stunning works took Rome by storm, overturning the prejudices of her time and winning the admiration of patrons, courtesans, and monarchs. Lapierre brings the historical Artemisia Gentileschi to vivid life, capturing the sights, sounds, and smells of Baroque Italy as well as the life of this remarkable woman.

The Lady Elizabeth


Alison Weir - 2008
    Even at age two, Elizabeth is keenly aware that people in the court of her father, King Henry VIII, have stopped referring to her as "Lady Princess" and now call her "the Lady Elizabeth." Before she is three, she learns of the tragic fate that has befallen her mother, the enigmatic and seductive Anne Boleyn, and that she herself has been declared illegitimate, an injustice that will haunt her.

Leading Men


Christopher Castellani - 2019
    Their encounter will go on to alter all of their lives.Ten years later, Frank revisits the tempestuous events of that fateful summer from his deathbed in Manhattan, where he waits anxiously for Tennessee to visit him one final time. Anja, now legendary film icon Anja Bloom, lives as a recluse in the present-day U.S., until a young man connected to the events of 1953 lures her reluctantly back into the spotlight after he discovers she possesses the only surviving copy of Williams's final play.What keeps two people together and what breaks them apart? Can we save someone else if we can't save ourselves? Like The Master and The Hours, Leading Men seamlessly weaves fact and fiction to navigate the tensions between public figures and their private lives. In an ultimately heartbreaking story about the burdens of fame and the complex negotiations of life in the shadows of greatness, Castellani creates an unforgettable leading lady in Anja Bloom and reveals the hidden machinery of one of the great literary love stories of the twentieth-century.

The Lost Painting


Jonathan Harr - 2005
    Here, a young graduate student from Rome, Francesca Cappelletti, makes a discovery that inspires a search for a work of art of incalculable value, a painting lost for almost two centuries.The artist was Caravaggio, a master of the Italian Baroque. He was a genius, a revolutionary painter, and a man beset by personal demons. Four hundred years ago, he drank and brawled in the taverns and streets of Rome, moving from one rooming house to another, constantly in and out of jail, all the while painting works of transcendent emotional and visual power. He rose from obscurity to fame and wealth, but success didn't alter his violent temperament. His rage finally led him to commit murder, forcing him to flee Rome a hunted man. He died young, alone, and under strange circumstances.Caravaggio scholars estimate that between sixty and eighty of his works are in existence today. Many others -- no one knows the precise number -- have been lost to time. Somewhere, surely, a masterpiece lies forgotten in a storeroom, or in a small parish church, or hanging above a fireplace, mistaken for a mere copy.Jonathan Harr embarks on a journey to discover the long-lost painting known as The Taking of Christ -- its mysterious fate and the circumstances of its disappearance have captivated Caravaggio devotees for years. After Francesca Cappelletti stumbles across a clue in that dusty archive, she tracks the painting across a continent and hundreds of years of history. But it is not until she meets Sergio Benedetti, an art restorer working in Ireland, that she finally manages to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle.

Sunflowers


Sheramy Bundrick - 2009
     A young prostitute seeking temporary refuge from the brothel, Rachel awakens in a beautiful garden in Arles to discover she is being sketched by a red-haired man in a yellow straw hat. This is no ordinary artist but the eccentric painter Vincent van Gogh—and their meeting marks the beginning of a remarkable relationship. He arrives at their first assignation at No. 1, Rue du Bout d'Arles, with a bouquet of wildflowers and a request to paint her—and before long, a deep, intense attachment grows between Rachel and the gifted, tormented soul. But the sanctuary Rachel seeks from her own troubled past cannot be found here, for demons war within Vincent's heart and mind. And one shocking act will expose the harsh, inescapable truth about the artist she has grown to love more than life.

Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet


Stephanie Cowell - 2010
    But she was gone and he was old. Nearly seventy. Only cool paint met his fingers. “Ma très chère . . .” Darkness started to fall, dimming the paintings. He felt the crumpled letter in his pocket. “I loved you so,” he said. “I never would have had it turn out as it did. You were with all of us when we began, you gave us courage. These gardens at Giverny are for you but I’m old and you’re forever young and will never see them. . . .”  In the mid-nineteenth century, a young man named Claude Monet decided that he would rather endure a difficult life painting landscapes than take over his father’s nautical supplies business in a French seaside town. Against his father’s will, and with nothing but a dream and an insatiable urge to create a new style of art that repudiated the Classical Realism of the time, he set off for Paris. But once there he is confronted with obstacles: an art world that refused to validate his style, extreme poverty, and a war that led him away from his home and friends. But there were bright spots as well: his deep, enduring friendships with men named Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro, Manet – a group that together would come to be known as the Impressionists, and that supported each other through the difficult years. But even more illuminating was his lifelong love, Camille Doncieux, a beautiful, upper-class Parisian girl who threw away her privileged life to be by the side of the defiant painter and embrace the lively Bohemian life of their time.  His muse, his best friend, his passionate lover, and the mother to his two children, Camille stayed with Monet—and believed in his work—even as they lived in wretched rooms, were sometimes kicked out of those, and often suffered the indignities of destitution. She comforted him during his frequent emotional torments, even when he would leave her for long periods to go off on his own to paint in the countryside. But Camille had her own demons – secrets that  Monet could never penetrate, including one that when eventually revealed would pain him so deeply that he would never fully recover from its impact. For though Camille never once stopped loving the painter with her entire being, she was not immune to the loneliness that often came with being his partner.  A vividly-rendered portrait of both the rise of Impressionism and of the artist at the center of the movement, Claude and Camille is above all a love story of the highest romantic order.

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling


Ross King - 2003
    With little experience as a painter (though famed for his sculpture David), Michelangelo was reluctant to begin the massive project. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the four extraordinary years Michelangelo spent laboring over the vast ceiling while the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, the pope's impatience, and a bitter rivalry with the brilliant young painter Raphael, Michelangelo created scenes so beautiful that they are considered one of the greatest masterpieces of all time. A panorama of illustrious figures converged around the creation of this great work-from the great Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus to the young Martin Luther-and Ross King skillfully weaves them through his compelling historical narrative, offering uncommon insight into the intersection of art and history.

Arrogance


Joanna Scott - 1990
    A self-professed genius and student of August Klimt, Scott's Schiele repeatedly challenges the boundaries of early twentieth-century Europe. Thrown in jail on charges of immorality, Schiele's Mephistophelean reputation only grows in stature until at the age of twenty-eight, the artist dies in the Great Flu Pandemic. Told from a crosscurrent of voices, viewpoints and times, this stunning novel won Scott a nomination for the 1991 PEN/Faulkner Award.

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution


Michelle Moran - 2011
    but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie's museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king's sister is so impressed that she requests Marie's presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse - even if it means time away from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles. As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse Élisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she's ever seen to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table. Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and cafés across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there's whispered talk of revolution... Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more important, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows? Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom

Blood & Beauty: The Borgias


Sarah Dunant - 2013
    When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: He is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women, and power must use papacy and family—in particular, his eldest son, Cesare, and his daughter Lucrezia—in order to succeed.Cesare, with a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest—though increasingly unstable—weapon. Later immortalized in Machiavelli’s The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages, and from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player.