daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, born into privilege and the political and
artistic turbulence of Renaissance Italy, is a stunning black-eyed blonde and a
precocious lover and collector of art. Worldly and ambitious, she has never
envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naïve Beatrice, until, by a
quirk of fate, Beatrice is betrothed to the future Duke of Milan. Although he is
more than twice their age, openly lives with his mistress, and is reputedly
trying to eliminate the current duke by nefarious means, Ludovico Sforza is
Isabella's match in intellect and passion for all things of beauty. Only he
would allow her to fulfill her destiny: to reign over one of the world's most
powerful and enlightened realms and be immortalized in oil by the genius
Leonardo da Vinci.
Though Isabella weds the Marquis of Mantua, a man she has loved since childhood,
Beatrice's fortunes rise effortlessly through her marriage to Ludovico. The two
sisters compete for supremacy in the illustrious courts of Europe, and Isabella
vows that she will not rest until she wrestles back her true fate and plays
temptress to the sensuous Ludovico and muse to the great Leonardo. But when
Ludovico's grand plan to control Europe begins to crumble, immortality through
art becomes a luxury, and the two sisters must choose between familial loyalty
and survival in the treacherous political climate.
Leonardo's Swans is an exceptionally vivid evocation of the artist during
his years in the glittering court of Milan, re-creating the thrilling moments
when he conceived The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. It portrays a
genius ahead of his time who can rarely escape the demands of his noble patrons
long enough to express his own artistic vision.
A haunting novel of rivalry, love, and betrayal that transports readers back to
Renaissance Italy, Leonardo's Swans will have you dashing to the works of
the great painternot for clues to a mystery but to contemplate the secrets of
the human heart.
If you enjoy historical fiction, and in particular books that focus on the lives of famous artists such as those by Susan Vreeland, Tracy Chevalier and especially Sarah Dunant, you should take a good look at Leonardo's Swans; particularly so if you have an interest in the Renaissance in general, and Leonardo da Vinci in particular. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Essex's canvas is too finely detailed to adequately represent the epic dramas...But the stories of Isabella and Beatrice d'Este along with the occasional investigations of Leonardo's artworks, methods and personality are always engrossing.
Essex delineates the confusion of historical events and historically accurate personalities with clarity, but she never quite achieves a sense of human urgency.
Booklist - Kristine Huntley
With lush, colorful descriptions, Essex brings to life the Sforza court and the competitive d'Este sisters'complex relationships with each other, their husbands, and Leonardo. Powerful historical fiction.
Karen Essex's latest novel brilliantly captures the turbulent years of late 15th-century Italy as seen through the eyes of the bold and beguiling Este sisters, whose lives and fates were inextricably woven into the political tapestry of those times.
According to Karen Essex, Isabelle d'Este is the the naked Venus in this painting by Mantegna.
Sforza's 1st mistress,
Gallerani, in a painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
A painting that some think is of Sforza's 2nd mistress,
Recent conjecture suggests that Isabel of Aragon was the model for
Mona Lisa. According to art
Maike Vogt-Luerssen, Isabel "was close to Leonardo da Vinci, the painter at
her court for 11 years, and remained a friend of his, and possibly more, for
most of her life."
Sforza's wife and Isabelle's sister:
Did you know? The Alfa Romeo car company
logo is designed from two symbols taken from theVisconti-Sforza
family coat of arms.
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