Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

The Second Mrs. Giaconda

GiacondaThe Second Mrs. Giaconda by E.L. Konigsburg


The heart of this story is asked in the very beginning of this short novel: Why did Leonardo da Vinci choose to paint a portrait of the second wife of a little-known merchant of Venice (the Mona Lisa), when dukes, duchesses, and other high ranking officials across Europe wanted him to do theirs? It’s a good question, and a valid one, but no one really knows the answer. Luckily, there are authors like E.L. Konigsburg who tackle the question in a fictional way.

The people, places, and pieces of art in this book are real, but the central characters — da Vinci, one of his apprentices named Salai, and the Duchess of Milan, Beatrice — are just that — characters. The premise of the novel is interesting, and Konigsburg presents the friendship of the three in a convincing and subtle way. In fact, the subtle manner which Konigsburg uses when writing is even mentioned on a back-cover blurb which sums it up perfectly: “[Konigsburg’s] gift in the understatement, the vitality she extracts from the most common place.” I don’t know if this quote (from Horn Book) is for this book, or just sums up her writing style, but it’s on the mark.

I think my favorite thing about this book is that it’s all a prelude to the painting of the Mona Lisa. She doesn’t cover the process, or delve into a lot of detail about the person who became the most famous woman in art; instead, she answers the question of “Why?”, and leaves the subject shrouded in her mystery. It’s a bold move, and one that works well in context to the story, and in deference to the portrait.

The story is good, but I recommend it more because of its author. I’ve taken a shine to Ms. Konigsburg, and expect to read many more of her books.

July 15, 2006 Posted by | Juvenile Fiction, Reviews | 20 Comments


“A person looking at a work of art should not be slapped to attention; he should be wooed.”

(E.L. Konigsburg, The Second Mrs. Giaconda)

July 15, 2006 Posted by | Quotes | Leave a comment