Title: Da Vinci’s Tiger
Author: L.M. Elliott
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover, 287 pages
Publishing Information: November 10th 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: ARC For Review
For fans of rich and complex historical novels like Girl with a Pearl Earring or Code Name Verity, Laura Malone Elliott delivers the stunning tale of real-life Renaissance woman Ginevra de’ Benci, the inspiration for one of Leonardo da Vinci’s earliest masterpieces.
The young and beautiful daughter of a wealthy family, Ginevra longs to share her poetry and participate in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence but is trapped in an arranged marriage in a society dictated by men. The arrival of the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers. Bembo chooses Ginevra as his Platonic muse and commissions a portrait of her by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them, one Ginevra only begins to understand. In a rich and vivid world of exquisite art with a dangerous underbelly of deadly political feuds, Ginevra faces many challenges to discover her voice and artistic companionship—and to find love.
Da Vinci’s Tiger, a well-written historical fiction and detailed unique book. It tells the story of a Renaissance woman. This book takes place back in the Renaissance Florence.
Ginevra de’ Benci is a young noblewoman who enjoys writing poems and analyzing art. She lives in a society dictated by men (she was in arranged into a marriage) and gives indication that she feels bound by society’s rules. Early in the book, Ginevra is invited to a dinner in the honor of Ambassador Bembo to share one of her poems. At the dinner event she is amazed by the philosophers, patrons, and artists who were the main attendees of the evening. She then meets the Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, and starts to develop a romance based on platonic ideals. The ambassador deemed her his “platonic love” and requested a painting made of her. Thus introducing us to the character, Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo da Vinci, a painter whom despite being a bastard child is known for his great works of arts, meets Ginevra. At first, Ginevra is under the impression that Leonardo doesn’t really like her or won’t acknowledge her as a friend. However, as they realized they both had a deep interest for the arts, they also started to develop a connection. They would have conversations on poetry versus art. One of my favorite Leonardo da Vinci quotes is: “The poet addresses the ear, while the painter engages the body. The eye is the nobler sense. It is as simple as comparing a puppet that has been torn apart and lies and pieces to fully united body. A poet can only describe a human figure bit by bit, consecutively, and using a great many words. Neck, shoulders, lips, brows, teeth, eyes…While a painter… A painter can present all parts of the being simultaneously, as a whole. It is far less tedious than poetry.”
Ginevra starts to develop feelings for Leonardo da Vinci. It is said that the painter and the person he’s painting always develop a deep connection since they spend a lot of time together. Since the painter spends time analyzing and painting the woman, they have time to really bond and get to know each other.
I felt that this book really gave me a perspective on what went into creating art back in Renaissance ages. Have you ever thought about what went into creating art? As someone who isn’t that involved with the arts, I never pondered it. I don’t really know much about the artists who played a huge role in society back in the Renaissance ages but due to this book, I was able to learn more about Leonardo’s thought process with creating paintings. Learning what artist was thinking while coming up with an idea for a painting helped me gain a deeper appreciation for art.
Additionally, not only did I learn more about art, but I also learned more about poetry. I understood how art and poetry could impact one’s life even though I may not have experienced it that way.
I also learned more about the way society worked back then. Ginevra is a woman who is more outspoken against society’s expectations. She decided with Leonardo da Vinci to have her painting’s background be of the outside world rather than in front of a plain wall which is usually what is expected. In this, she showed a different part to women, and speaks out against society’s rules. She wasn’t afraid of the consequences and showed herself in a different light to society.
The author, Laura Malone Elliot, gives her point of view on the character she writes about. She says, “It’s hard to fathom today, but it took enormous courage for Ginevra to break all convention concerning women and modesty to face forward and look out, allowing Leonard and then her viewers to really consider her mind and heart. A mountain tiger indeed.” Laura adds, “Da Vinci’s Tiger not a narrative about a passive muse, or merely a walking-tour through a breath-taking time in art. I don’t want to give away too much plot, but I found an amazing story of female agency within Ginevra.” And she was right, because throughout this story you could clearly see the passion Ginevra had for poetry and art and how she was clearly a unique woman.
The title of this book was also an interesting aspect as it relates to the main character, specifically her poetry. Ginevra de’ Benci wrote many poems back in the Renaissance ages, however only one line of her poem remains. That line is, “I beg your pardon, I am a mountain tiger”. This does not only show up as the first intro to the book, but also as the final concluding statement. The author, Laura Malone Elliot, states in an interview that she did indeed form that title because of the only remaining part of Ginevra’s poetry. That mountain tiger phrase truly reflects Ginevra’s strength and independence
All in all, I definitely enjoyed reading this book. It’s a well-researched book that highlights the poet who was Leonardo’s first revolutionary portrait. The author brings history to life with this tale. Since she grew up right outside Washington DC, she is indeed surrounded by history and knows how to transform it into a well-written story. If you’re a fan of historical fiction spun into such a great and detailed story, then this book is just the one for you.
Hey everyone, Fatima here! I am currently a junior in a high school in Ohio. I am also a bookworm who loves to read fantasy and dystopian books. I love getting lost in books and forgetting about all the other schoolwork I have to do. I also love to play volleyball, and I enjoy participating in a variety of extracurricular activities at my school. You can find me on Instagram @fatimacitygirl.