Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Painter of Souls by Philip Kazan

This is the first of a series of books that will be issued, each imagining a phase in the life of the early Italian Renaissance painter Fra Filippo Lippi.  We know only about some of his artworks and some basic points about his life.  The author imagines the rest, and presents this biography of the artist's early years in great detail, often from the artist's perspective.

In this book you might be deceived by the simple style into thinking this book is written for teens.  When you encounter the first vulgarities in English and in Italian, you'll realize the book is written for adults.  There is even a sex scene.

Lippi self-portrait

Historical novels tend to be told in the present tense these days, to bring the past to life in the reader's mind, and this novel is no exception.  Please don't complain about this in the reviews.  I'm very tired of reading people's complaints because they don't want to read more than a few pages written in present tense.

If you read ten pages plus, you won't even realize it is in present tense any more, and you'll just enjoy the intimate closeness the tense creates with the events and the main character.  Give it a try.  You might actually enjoy it, like so many others, especially younger readers who devour whole popular series in the present tense.

Just because it is unfamiliar to you doesn't make it wrong, or deserving of terrible reviews or terrible ratings.  Okay, enough said...

Fra Lippi was not a very good friar, but this first book only covers his life up to his parting with early Renaissance artist Masaccio, his mentor and surrogate father figure.  All the really scandalous things occur later.

The book's Prologue is deceptive, suggesting that the artist's whole life will be covered in the book.  That is not the case.  Future volumes will cover the later periods. 

Each volume will presumable present the artists and local bigwigs from that era, along with some major artworks, just like this first book does.  How those artworks came to be created is covered in quite a bit of detail.

From the book's description:
An extraordinary story of passion, art, and intrigue, this novel journeys to a time and place in Italy where desire reigns supreme—and salvation is found in the strangest of places.

Beauty can be a gift—or a wicked temptation. So it is for Filippo Lippi, growing up in Renaissance Florence. He has a talent—not only can he see the beauty in everything, he can capture it, paint it. But while beauty can seduce you and art can transport you—it cannot always feed you or protect you.

To survive, Pippo Lippi, orphan, street urchin, budding rogue, must first become Fra Filippo Lippi: Carmelite friar, man of God. His life will take him down two paths at once.

He will become a gambler, a forger, a seducer of nuns; and at the same time he will be the greatest painter of his time, the teacher of Botticelli and the confidante of the Medicis. So who is he really—lover, believer, father, teacher, artist? Is anything true except the paintings?

Here is a direct link to the book at Amazon.com:

Please visit the author's website/blog.

For those who would like to know more about Lippi:

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