Monday, July 28, 2014

A Valuable Painting and Its Provenance

Giovanni Fabriazza, an art restorer, is miserable. His first wife is dead. Although he's married to a beautiful, younger second wife, he mourns his first wife. This unhappiness leads to problems with his second wife. In addition, he's been forced to move from the studio he loved to a more secure location that he hates.

When he's at a low point, one of his friends asks if he can buy a painting for his son's wedding. Giovanni is happy to oblige and is sure that one of the paintings left to him by his father will be appropriate. When he uncrates one of the paintings, an Italian nobleman, the painting talks to him. At first Giovanni thinks he's losing his mind, but as the portrait tells him stories of previous owners, he becomes at ease with the relationship even when it turns up illegal doings in his own family.

The novel is relatively short and well written. I enjoyed the interchange between Giovanni and the portrait. The tales of previous owners were well done and intriguing. Giovanni's character development is one of the highlights of the book. He starts feeling sorry for himself, unable to work, and unable to enjoy his new marriage. In the end he has conquered those feelings largely thanks to the portrait.

Although this novel is relatively slow moving with little excitement, it's an interesting take on the question of what men will do to get things they value. I highly recommend this book particularly if you're interested in art history and the role collectors played in the Nazi theft of numerous works of art.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.