Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

The Second Mrs. Giaconda

GiacondaThe Second Mrs. Giaconda by E.L. Konigsburg

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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

Art

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

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

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