What It’s About:
Michelangelo is a virtual unknown when he returns to Florence and wins the commission to carve what will become one of the most famous sculptures of all time: David. Even though his impoverished family shuns him for being an artist, he is desperate to support them. Living at the foot of his misshapen block of marble, Michelangelo struggles until the stone finally begins to speak. Working against an impossible deadline, he begins his feverish carving.
Meanwhile, Leonardo’s life is falling apart: he loses the hoped-for David commission; he can’t seem to finish any project; is obsessed with his ungainly flying machine; almost dies in war; his engineering designs disastrously fail; and he is haunted by a woman he has seen in the market—a merchant’s wife, whom he is finally commissioned to paint. Her name is Lisa, and she becomes his muse.
Leonardo despises Michelangelo for his youth and lack of sophistication. Michelangelo both loathes and worships Leonardo’s genius. Oil and Marble is the story of their nearly forgotten rivalry.Goodreads
A Little Background Info
In my younger years, I never had a big interest in Italian Renaissance art or Italian history in general. I understand the Italian Renaissance as an important part of European history and it’s impact on the knowledge and culture of the time. I took a Northern Renaissance art class in college and love the renaissance movement in Northern Europe. But now (because of this book) my interests are slowly changing to include the Italian Renaissance. I minored in art history in college but now am wishing I had majored in it. I bought this book because I love to read historical fiction that include famous people from real history, especially if it has to deal with art history.
My Raving Review
I enjoyed EVERY MINUTE of reading Oil and Marble. I read it whenever I could…during my lunch, before bed, waiting in drive thru’s, during my toddler’s bath time…My days are pretty full with responsibilities so I have to snatch reading moments when I can. Stephanie Storey did an amazing job with combining her historical research and adding her own fictional parts to it that made the story interesting and plausible. Storey addresses the factual and fictional parts of her book in the author’s notes and also on her website. She even includes separate posts about different topics from the book on her website, and a bibliography! The librarian in me did a happy dance when I saw the word “bibliography”!
The Plot, Storyline, and Setting
The pacing and details of Oil and Marble was just the right amount for me. There was enough details to create a lively setting of early 16th century Italy. I learned a bit about the cultural and political climate was like in Florence during that time. This story also had many other historical figures and famous artworks that made it quite fun to read. There was a nice mix of pacing throughout the book. The storyline had some slower, more ponderous text that built up setting and characterization and other times had more action-packed scenes that had kept me on edge while I was reading.
Reading about this time period and the art that was created around that time allowed me to gain a better understanding of what inspired the artists, the culture, religion, eceonmy, and all the other different aspects that help shape the artwork. That is why I loved studying art history…because studying art can be so much more than what you see visually. Art is influenced by the complex world it is created in. The same can be said about literature, music, drama, etc.
Two of the Ninja Turtles
I REALLY enjoyed following the two main characters, Leonardo and Michelangelo. The story is told in alternating chapters in the third person point of view of Leonardo and Michelangelo. The alternating chapters is one of my favorite parts of the book. I’ve always thought about the Renaissance masters as talented geniuses on this giant pedestal of great art. But this book humanized them in a way that I finally could image what they were like in real life. Yes, the were masters of art but they didn’t start out that way. It took time for them to buildup their skill. These artists had their own doubts, struggles, and triumphs that they had to overcome in order to create art.
I also had tremendous fun with the rivalry that the author created between Leonardo and Michelangelo. Michelangelo was my favorite because he was the underdog in the book and his character was just so likable. I even waited until the unveiling of David happened in the story to revisit what it looked like in real life. It created a great feeling of anticipation and I felt like I was seeing it for the first time just like the Florentines! Leonardo’s character was interesting in his own right because he goes through some character changes that made me like him alot in the end.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has interest in art history, the Italian Renaissance, or historical fiction in general. There’s almost a little cliffhanger or segue into the second book Stephanie Storey. I won’t reveal any names! I can’t wait to get around to reading it.