Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Blog Tour: Mary Hoffman - Guest Post

Good morning all you lovely readers. I hope you're all enjoying this fine Tuesday! I'm here today with a guest post from the wonderful Mary Hoffman, who will be speaking to you (well, typing...) about the permanence of art vs. human beauty, an important theme in her latest novel, David.

If you haven't heard about David yet then click here to take a look at the Goodreads page. Any historical fans are going to be completely obsessed with this one and I'm convinced it's going to win a tonne of new fans over to the genre as well. As with all of Hoffman's books it's an absolute treat and the writing is impeccable.

Anyway, without further ado I'll hand you over to the lady herself, Mary Hoffman.


The permanence of art vs human beauty

Gabriele sees the portrait that Leonardo is painting of Lisa del Giocondo and this is his reaction:

‘It is wonderful,’ I said to the painter who had been watching, amused, while my eyes had travelled again and again from the canvas to the sitter and back again. ‘I don’t know how to express myself, Maestro, in words that would mean anything to someone with your genius. But you have made me see not Monna Lisa herself, although that itself is a gift, but – how may I say it without seeming to presume? – something of the quality of womanhood itself.’

I stopped, feeling that I had made a poor job of expressing my admiration for all three – the woman, the portrait and the artist. And in my confusion, I did feel desire – something more overwhelming than I had ever experienced before, even in the presence of Angelo’s great works. I wanted to own something so beautiful for myself – though whether it was the woman or her picture I couldn’t have said – to clasp this vision of the eternal in my own mortal grasp. In fact, I think that was the first time I saw myself as mortal, like other men, in the presence of something as enduring as a great work of art.”


Throughout the book, the young stonemason is trying to learn about art and to understand how it is that truly great art can give you a glimpse of eternity and achieve a form of immortality. Of course he understands that statues made of stone and paintings made of canvas or wood and paintings are almost as vulnerable as human flesh but there is one difference: all humans will die but a work of art might live on.

And it is not dependent on believing in an afterlife; whether the masterpiece survives is subject to all sorts of vagaries but all it has to do is be there and its fate will be what it will be.

What makes this important in David, is that Gabriele is posing for such a work of art. Which brings up all sorts of questions about how you know, before it has acquired any reputation, whether a work is likely to endure or not. Of course you can’t know what external forces – fire, flood, war – might destroy it but does the artist or the model know when they are part of something as great as the David or Leonardo’s portrait?

There are so many poems, plays and novels whose themes are the fleeting nature of youth, beauty or life itself. But not much creative literature about the permanence of art or music or literature itself. And even less about how they struck their first viewers, listeners or readers. I wanted to examine what it would have been like to see David for the first time – or even while it was being made.

And what must it have been like for the very recognisable models of these works to walk around the city of Florence when everyone knew who they were and what they had inspired. It was from thoughts like these that David grew.


So there we have it, folks! Absolutely fascinating, don't you think? I honestly urge all of you to pick up a copy of David when you get the chance. It's a beautifully written story.

To find out more about Mary have a look at the following links:

Website
Twitter - @MARYMHOFFMAN
Facebook
Blog

That's it from me today guys - be sure to head over to Armadillo Magazine tomorrow, which is the next stop on the tour!

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