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The Forgery of Venus: A Novelby Michael Gruber
Synopses & Reviews
Chaz Wilmot is a painter born outside his time. He possesses a virtuosic command of the techniques of the old masters. He can paint like Leonardo, Goya, Gainsborough—artists whose works sell for millions — but this style of painting is no longer popular, and he refuses to shape his talent to fit the fashion of the day. So Wilmot makes his living cranking out parodies for ads and magazine covers. A break comes when an art dealer obtains for him a commission to restore a Venetian palace fresco by the eighteenth-century master Tiepolo, for a disreputable Italian businessman. Once there, Wilmot discovers that it is not a restoration but a re-creation, indeed a forgery. At first skeptical of the job, he then throws himself into the creative challenge and does the job brilliantly. No one can tell the modern work from something done more than two hundred years ago.
This feat attracts the attention of Werner Krebs, an art dealer with a dark past and shadier present who becomes Wilmot's friend and patron. Wilmot is suddenly working with a fervor he hasn't felt in years, but his burst of creative activity is accompanied by strange interludes: Without warning, he finds himself reliving moments from his past — not as memories but as if they are happening all over again. Soon, it is no longer his own past he's revisiting; he believes he can travel back to the seventeenth century, where he lived as the Spanish artist Diego Rodríguez de Silva Velázquez, one of the most famous painters in history. Wilmot begins to fantasize that as Velázquez, he has created a masterpiece, a stunning portrait of a nude. When the painting actually turns up, he doesn't know if he painted it or if he imagined the whole thing.
Little by little, Wilmot enters a mirror house of illusions and hallucinations that propels him into a secret world of gangsters, greed, and murder, with his mystery patron at the center of it all, either as the mastermind behind a plot to forge a painting worth hundreds of millions, or as the man who will save Wilmot from obscurity and madness.
In Chaz Wilmot, we meet the rarest breed of literary hero, one for whom the reader feels almost personally responsible. By turns brutally honest and self-deceptive, scornful of the world while yearning to make his mark on it, Wilmot comes astonishingly alive for the reader, and his perilous journey toward the truth becomes our own.
The Forgery of Venus, a blend of erudition, unflagging narrative brio, and emotional depth, brings us inexorably toward the intersection where genius and insanity collide. Miraculously inventive, this book cements Gruber's reputation as one of the most imaginative and gifted writers of our time.
"Bestseller Gruber (The Book of Air and Shadows) probes the boundaries between sanity and madness in his outstanding sixth novel. Talented Chaz Wilmot, who makes a modest living as a commercial artist in New York City, can't say no when Mark Slade, his former Columbia roommate who now owns a downtown gallery, offers him $150,000 to fix a ruined Tiepolo ceiling in a Venetian palazzo ('the ceiling had essentially collapsed, so it wasn't a restoration job exactly but more like a reproducing job'). Once abroad, Wilmot gets sucked into an increasingly bizarre world where his own identity is confused and the art he produces may be a forgery but is genuinely magnificent. Is Wilmot crazy or is he being manipulated in a grandiose scheme linked to unrecovered art stolen by the Nazis? Gruber writes passionately and knowledgeably about art and its history — and he writes brilliantly about the shadowy lines that blur reality and unreality. Fans of intelligent, literate thrillers will be well rewarded." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Nobody mixes art, sex, drugs and wit quite like Gruber....
"Gruber is on a roll. Not even a year after The Book of Air and Shadows, he delivers another terrific art-historical thriller....Once again, Gruber mines a popular vein and strikes gold." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Gruber writes with a deft hand, creating a fallen hero who is likable despite his faults. Recommended." Library Journal
"Michael Gruber spends so much time dropping the names of painters and Italian techniques in a run of art-geek technobabble that he buries his terrific conceit — a drug that makes Chaz think he's reliving the life of Diego Veláuez. (Grade: C+)" Entertainment Weekly
"[Gruber] owns his subject matter and packs it with well-researched details, making this tale of madness and art forgery a genuine work of his own." Chicago Sun-Times
"[A] highly intelligent novel that entertains and educates." USA Today
In his latest thriller, Michael Gruber creates a fascinating world of secrets, genius and conspiracies and combines it with brilliant story telling, complex characterizations and sterling prose. The results are a spell-binding novel that cements his reputation as one of the most imaginative and gifted writers of our time.
Gruber creates a fascinating world of secrets, genius, and conspiracies and combines it with brilliant storytelling, complex characterizations, and sterling prose to produce this spellbinding novel.
About the Author
Michael Gruber is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Book of Air and Shadows. He and his wife, painter Elizabeth Winder Noyes, live in Seattle, Washington.
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