A vibrant and enthralling historical novel about art and passion, The Miracles of Prato by Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz brings Italy in the era of the Medici to glorious life—as it tells the story of an illicit love affair between the renowned painter Fra Filippo Lippi and his muse, a beautiful convent novitiate. A magnificent blend of fact, historical color, emotion, and invention, The Miracles of Prato is a novel that will delight the many fans of Tracy Chavalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue.
From 1501 to 1505, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome 50-year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself.
Michelangelo is a virtual unknown when he returns to Florence and wins the commission to carve what will become one of the most famous sculptures of all time: David. Even though his impoverished family shuns him for being an artist, he is desperate to support them. Living at the foot of his misshapen block of marble, Michelangelo struggles until the stone finally begins to speak. Meanwhile, Leonardo’s life is falling apart: he loses the hoped-for David commission; he can’t seem to finish any project; he is obsessed with his ungainly flying machine; he almost dies in war; his engineering designs disastrously fail; and he is haunted by a woman he has seen in the market—a merchan’’s wife, whom he is finally commissioned to paint. Her name is Lisa, and she becomes his muse. Leonardo despises Michelangelo for his youth and lack of sophistication. Michelangelo both loathes and worships Leonardo’s genius. Oil and Marble is the story of their nearly forgotten rivalry. Storey brings early 16th-century Florence alive, and has entered with extraordinary empathy into the minds and souls of two Renaissance masters. The book is an art history thriller.
“In the tradition of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Palombo has married fine art with romantic historical fiction in this lush and sensual interpretation of Medici Florence, artist Sandro Botticelli, and the muse that inspired them all.” – Booklist
A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th-century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he belongs to the powerful Medici family’s favored circle. Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence—most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici—become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus. Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.
Since its first publication in 1997, A Tabernacle for the Sun has met rapturous response from readers and reviewers and has become a classic travel companion for anyone going to Tuscany, as recommended by Lonely Planet Guide to Florence and Tuscany: “The historical detail … is exemplary and [it’s] a cracking good read.” This book draws the reader into the Renaissance, to walk the streets of Florence, meet its famous men, loiter awhile in Botticelli’s workshop and see one of the world’s greatest paintings grow from first sketches through to finished panel, even as daggers are drawn and blood begins to spill. Freedom – is it Florence without the Medici, or a condition of the soul? This is the question facing Tommaso de’ Maffei, an apprentice scribe who cannot forgive Lorenzo for sacking his native city of Volterra. But if he would join the Platonic Academy and take the journey of the soul, he must reconcile himself to Lorenzo. Meanwhile his family draws him into a conspiracy against the Medici. To avoid the turmoil, both inner and outer, he takes refuge in the painter’s workshop where his friend, Filippino, is an apprentice.
Following the Pazzi Conspiracy, Florence finds itself at war with Rome and Naples. Lorenzo de’ Medici, whose brother was murdered by the Pazzi, has no doubt that he has God on his side. His wife, Clarice, is not so sure. Roman-born and pious, she is in every way a medieval woman and believes that the troubles besetting the family are due to Lorenzo’s ‘heresy’, that is, his Platonism. Lorenzo sends her to safety, under the protection of Angelo Poliziano. Powerless against her husband, Clarice sets out to destroy the poet. The domestic conflicts reflect – in fact are intimately connected with – world affairs, because as Lorenzo’s marriage falls apart, so does his hold on the power-politics of Florence and Italy. Events move to dramatic conclusions that explode each character’s beliefs and certainties. The war is not just between Florence and Rome but is a battle between the medieval world and the Renaissance, between superstitious Christianity and Christian Platonism, between faith and reason, between a woman and a man. It is the battle of Juno and Zeus.