Book review: novel paints portrait of artist “Mona Lisa”, subject, preservation effort | Arts
By DAVID ARNDT FOR FREE LANCE – STAR
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is undoubtedly one of the most famous works of art in the Louvre. The beauty of the model, the sly, almost shy smile, and the creative artistic setting have brought untold visitors to the museum. As enchanting as the painting is, its history is also intriguing. In Laura Morelli’s “The Stolen Lady”, the author presents two stories from the work of art’s past: the time of its creation and the danger it faced during World War II.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Anne Guichard, archivist at the Louvre, and other staff members were working to catalog, secure and move priceless objects to residences outside the capital. As war looms on the horizon, the General Staff is terrified that German forces will invade the city and loot the contents of the Louvre. Leaving her mother behind after her brother’s sudden disappearance, Anne is determined to accompany the “Mona Lisa” and protect her from enemy forces. She and her team work tirelessly to move priceless creations from castle to castle, museum to museum, trying to stay one step ahead of the Germans.
The other half of the story begins in Florence, 1479, and is told through the perspective of da Vinci and the maid Bellina Sardi, Lisa Gherardini’s maid. The artist describes his ambitions to do more than paint, to be an inventor and an architect. Frustrated by his father and his contemporaries, he struggles to define himself as he tries to become a true master of the Renaissance. He half-heartedly took the commission to paint the Lady Lisa, sadly considering that another portrait of another noblewoman would never make him famous. Bellina, on the other hand, first feels her position in the house, but eventually realizes her importance and dedication to her mistress. Once tragedy sets in and takes over Lisa’s life, Bellina is ready to do anything to help her alleviate her problems.