Misc.

Books Inspired By Works of Art

Art inspires and moves, art invokes and demands response. Centuries ago, even those that could not read were able to look at and understand, or interpret, works of art. Therefore it is only natural that works of art have inspired works of fiction in turn. It provides the perfect backdrop for a historical novel, an already established setting, leaving the author free to flesh out the characters. Or it can bring the past and the present together. Either way, there are so many novels that have been inspired by works of art, and definitely not enough time or space to discuss them all. So here are five examples of books, and the artworks and artists that inspired them.

Goldfinch goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt & Het puttertje by Carel Fabritius

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is set in New York, and revolves around a man called Theo Decker. The story begins with Theo as a child – his mother is killed in an accident and his father abandons him, so he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. The one thing that always reminds Theo of his mother is a painting: The Goldfinch by Dutch artist Carel Fabritius. This leads him to a career in art and antiques as an adult – but soon his past begins to catch up with him.

The Goldfinch, or ‘Het puttertje’ as it is called in Dutch, was painted in 1654 by Carel Fabritius. There are not many other known surviving works of Fabritius. It is part of the permanent collection of the Mauritishuis in Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands, although it was recently displayed at the Scottish National Gallery at the end of 2016.

girl_with_a_pearl_earring Girl with a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier & Meisje met de parel by Johannes Vermeer

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier tells the imagined story of how the famous painting came to be about, as told by the ‘model’, Griet. At sixteen, Griet is sent to work as a maid in the household of Johannes Vermeer in Delft, after an accident results in her father’s blindness. Despite his initial aloofness, Griet soon becomes something like Vermeer’s assistant, due to her eye for art and colour. This causes tension within the household and within Griet’s different personal relationships – and then one day, Vermeer asks Griet to sit for one of his paintings.

Girl With a Pearl Earring, or to give it the original Dutch title ‘Meisje met de parel’, was painted in the 17th century by Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer lived in Delft, in the Netherlands, where the novel is set, and the painting remains in the Netherlands – like The Goldfinch, it can also be found in the Mauritshuis in Den Haag. I managed to see Girl With a Pearl Earring when I visited the Mauritshuis in September 2014, and it really is a gorgeous painting – but actually very small!

venus velasquez I Am Venus by Barbara Mujica

I Am Venus by Bárbara Mujica & the Rokeby Venus by Diego Velázquez

In 1619, painter Diego Velázquez began to gain prominence within the court of King Philip IV. Yet his paintings were dangerous, risque in a time where people were very conscious of sin, and the consequences of being a sinner. Despite this, he produced his riskiest painting, all the while chancing being caught by the Inquisition. As with Girl with a Pearl Earring, I Am Venus by Bárbara Mujica is narrated not by the artist, but by the model.

This particular work of Diego Velázquez‘s is called the ‘Rokeby Venus’, or the ‘Toilet of Venus’, and was completed between 1647 and 1651. It shows Venus, lying on a bed, gazing into a mirror held up by her son Cupid. This is the only surviving nude by Velázquez, not a surprise when the Inquisition would actively hunt down any such artwork. When it was first brought to England from Spain, it was displayed at Rokeby Park in Yorkshire, which is where the name comes from. In 1906 it was moved to the National Gallery in London, where it has been ever since. It was actually attacked by a suffragette, Mary Robinson, in 1914, after the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst, but has since been restored.

madame x Strapless

Strapless by Deborah Davis & Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent

Strapless by Deborah Davis tells the story of the real ‘Madame X’ – 23 year old Virginie Gautreau, a New Orleans Creole who moved to Paris and became an ‘it girl’. She was pursued by artists, but it was John Singer Sargent who was lucky enough to actually paint her. However, the painting did not have the desired effect, and caused nothing but scandal and controversy. Strapless looks at how it affected Virginie herself.

This painting is entitled ‘Portrait of Madame X’, and was painted by British artist John Singer Sargent in 1884. The title was meant to keep the model’s identity anonymous, but obviously this did not work, and people were shocked and scandalised. The main issue was that one of the straps on Madame X’s dress was hanging loose, a sign of ‘loose morals’ and wanton behaviour, so Sergant had in effect painted her as a prostitute when she was in fact a lady of high society. Sargent later repainted the strap onto the shoulder, but the damage had already been done, and he was never able to build a long-term career as a portrait painter in France. ‘Portrait of Madame X’ now resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

mona lisa i mona lisa

I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis & The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis is an imagined account of the real Mona Lisa, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy wool merchant. Set in 15th century Florence, it is a romance and a mystery all in one, inspired by the history and art of Renaissance Italy.

The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, is possibly one of the most infamous paintings in the world. Painted at the beginning of the 16th century, it is believed to be of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a merchant turned local official. For such a famous painting, there is a lot of mystery around it – Lisa’s expression, the setting, and until very recently, the identity of Lisa herself. It has been the subject of much popular culture, for example Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and there have been plenty of copies made around the world. The Mona Lisa is now on display at the Louvre, in Paris, and has been attacked and stolen several times – apparently, the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1914 was what drew attention to it, and before that it was not widely known outside the art world.

Have you read any of these books? Can you recommend any others inspired by works of art?

Advertisements
Past Features

Weekly Roundup #34

weeklyru_16

My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc. This is a couple of weeks worth of this feature – apparently I haven’t posted one since October, what with Sci-Fi Month in November and then the blog migration to WordPress in December.


Gifted

  • Lonely Planet: The Netherlands – I received this for Christmas from my parents, as I’m off to the Netherlands for my Masters this year. Even though I’ll be studying, I’ve got to make the most of my year abroad (although I’m hoping I’ll stay there a bit longer if possible) and I want to visit as many places as possible!
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – I’m sure you’ve seen this one all over the blogosphere. Samantha Shannon has been pipped as ‘the new J.K. Rowling’, and has signed a seven book deal, as well as the film rights to the series – and she’s a year younger than me. Urk.

 

Bought

  • Hodd by Adam Thorpe – this is a sort of alternate version of the traditional Robin Hood story. I kept seeing it in my local charity shop, and eventually picked it up – it’s practically brand new. This is one of my planned books for the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge.
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch – I first heard about this book when I read Kelly’s review of it. It’s the sort of contemporary/adult fiction novel I like – with something just hidden below the surface. Plus it’s set in Amsterdam, and I want to read more books set in the Netherlands!
  • The Science of Doctor Who by Paul Parsons – um, how was I ever going to spot this in a charity shop and NOT buy it?
  • The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – I’m interested to see how this one plays out, as it’s co-written by a film director – although it’s definitely within his genre. This is another one I’m planning to read for the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge.

 

For Kindle

Ever since I got my own Kindle, I’ve gone kind of crazy. All these 99p deals on brand new books! And the classics, which I’ll mention but not bother with covers: Popular Tales from the Norse, The Babylonian Legends of Creation, Lysistrata, The Birds, The Frogs, The Eleven Comedies, Travels in West Africa, The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Vanity Fair and soooo many more… (I started listing them then realised exactly how many I had downloaded…)

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

  • Raising Steam (Discworld #40) by Terry Pratchett – new Discworld novel? For 99p? Yes, yes I will buy it.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – short adult fiction by Neil Gaiman. I’ve only read his books for younger readers, so I’d like to see how different his adult writing is.
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is one of my favourite books, and when I spotted this new release of hers for 99p I thought I’d give it a try.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym, I’d love to see how this differs from her usual writing style.

 

Netgalley

So one of my Bookish New Years Resolutions was to get my Netgalley ratio up to at LEAST 50%. So naturally, at the beginning of the year I requested a whole load of new books from Netgalley. The cover links to the Goodreads page.

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb Camelot Burning by Kathryn Rose The Cruel Path by David J. Normoyle Drawn by Cecilia Gray In the Company of Thieves by Kage Baker The Martian by Andy Weir We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo Doctor Who: The Death Pit by A.L. Kennedy Providence Hang Wire by Adam Christopher The Waking Engine by David Edison Black Moon

And that’s it! I think I have enough for a while now… not that that will stop me getting more books! What new reads do you have this week?

Misc.

A to Z Bookish Survey

 
When I saw this great bookish survey created by Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner, I knew I had to join in. Credit also goes to Jamie for the image above.
 
Author you’ve read the most books from:
Natsuki Takaya, due to reading all of the Fruits Basket manga – after that it’s Jacqueline Wilson. I loved her when I was younger. But if we’re talking about authors I still read, then it’s Terry Pratchett.
 
Best sequel ever:
I’m going to cheat and say sequels, with the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series. I really can’t decide which of the books is my favourite, they’re all amazing and build perfectly upon each other.
 
Currently reading:
The Returned by Jason Mott (for a blog tour) and The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett. The latter is taking me far too long to read since I don’t tend to like reading on the Kindle too much. But I better get used to it…

Drink of choice while reading:
Tea. Duh. Though I have been known to indulge in the occasional Southern Comfort and lemonade. Often whilst reading The Southern Vampire Mysteries.
 
E-reader or physical book:
I guess I already answered this one. Definitely a physical book, but I really need to get used to using an e-reader. I’m planning on going to university abroad for my Masters, and I can’t really take my books with me…
 
Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school:
Errmmm. Maybe not in high school/secondary school… but I’d quite like me a bit of Eric Northman, thank you please.
 
 
Glad you gave this book a chance:
Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar. Quite unexpected!
 
Hidden gem book:
Incarnation by Emma Cornwall. I’m afraid that this might get lumped in with all the other YA vampire stuff, when in actual fact it’s a wonderfully written semi-retelling of Dracula, from the point of view of one of his victims. 
 
Important moment in your reading life:
The same as Jamie, and probably many other bloggers: discovering Goodreads. It made it so much easier to keep track of what I was reading/had read, find new books, work out what to read next, and most importantly of all: find fellow-minded book lovers!
 
Just finished:
Dead to the World (Southern Vampire Mysteries #4) by Charlaine Harris. For the third time. I recently discussed the series after reading the twelfth and penultimate book, bought the entire five seasons on DVD and started re-reading the series again. As if I don’t have enough to read already without re-reading!
 
Kinds of books you won’t read:
Erotica, pure romance (it’s okay mixed with another genre, and as a minor part of the book, but otherwise I just find it pretty dull), paranormal romance (or rather, I’m more selective), overly graphic books (squeamish), any sort of fiction that pushes religious views on the reader. I’m also not a massive fan of poetry (unless it’s Ovid. Ovid is awesome).
 
Longest book you’ve read:
Hmm… if you count The Lord of the Rings as one volume, then that maybe? One book I’m currently reading – but currently have on hold – is Shogun by James Clavell, which clocks in at around 1200 pages. But most recently, I think it was probably IQ84 Books 1 & 2 by Haruki Murakami, which was amazing and very, very odd – true to his style. Oh, and I can’t be forgetting A Song of Ice and Fire – each book is at least 500 pages long. I’ve read plenty of thick, door-stop books: it comes with being a fan of the fantasy and science fiction genres.
 
Major book hangover because of:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I received a free copy a while ago, but was preparing myself for it because of all the reviews I’d read, people saying they bawled and bawled. Well I finally got round to reading it a few months ago, and I started off like this:
 
 
“Oh I’m so happy to be reading this book, I’ve heard such great things about it from everyone; it’s easy to read and actually quite funny – I was not expecting that. And yeah, it’s quite sad but there’s a lot of humour injected into it, why were people bawling their eyes out?”
 
Then, about three quarters through, just one tiny little moment did this to me:
 
 
“Oh. That’s why.”
 
And from there on out, I was sobbing and bawling until the end of the book, and after. Thanks, John Green. Thanks. (but seriously though, it was amazing)
 
Number of book cases you own:
I myself own two, plus a big shelf for archaeology/ancient history related books, and now the books are escaping onto the mantelpiece… but as for my family – well… look here.
 
One book you have read multiple times:
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. I’ve read it at least once every year since I was eleven (apart from last year actually…). So around ten times, I think.
 
Preferred place to read:
 
Quote that inspires you:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

This is something that Jojen Reed says in A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. 

Reading regret:

Not reading much at all during the first two years of university. I felt kind of guilty for reading non-archaeology related books. But I had so much free time! Think of all the books I could have crossed off my ‘to read’ list

Series you’ve started and need to finish (all books are published):

The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons and The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. I just need to read the last book for each of them!

Three of your all-time favourite books:

Ah, this is a hard one! Okay… I’ll pick each from different genres. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (fantasy), Hyperion by Dan Simmons (sci-fi) and The Secret History by Donna Tartt (thriller/mystery). There’s so many more I wish I could add to that.

Unapologetic fangirl for:

J.R.R Tolkien and anything to do with Middle-earth. My first foray into website creation was at the age of 13, and I owned several Lord of the Rings related fansites from that age until I was about 17 or 18. I would quite happily live in the Shire.

Very excited for this release more than others:

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding, because of the wonderful feelings the first two books give me. I hope it lives up to the hype!

Worst bookish habit:

Reading several books at once because I want to hurry up and review them, and thinking that reading several at once will help that. But it doesn’t. Because I flit between them constantly and often pick up another book.

X marks the spot: go to the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

Your latest book purchase:

Wards of Faerie (Dark Legacy of Shannara #1) by Terry Brooks.

ZZZ-snatcher: book that kept you up WAY too late:

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles #1) by Patrick Rothfuss. I read it for my book group, Dragons & Jetpacks, and we pretty much all loved it. I kept thinking ‘one more chapter…’ but it has really short chapters, so I felt cheated and would read one more… then rinse, and repeat.