The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence
A Story of Botticelli
"In the tradition of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Palombo has married fine art with romantic historical fiction in this lush and sensual interpretation of Medici Florence, artist Sandro Botticelli, and the muse that inspired them all." - Booklist
A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.
Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence—most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici—become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.
Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.
Simonetta Cattaneo, said to be the model for some of Sandro Botticelli's finest paintings, including the Birth of Venus, was wed to Marco Vespucci in 1469. This story follows her tragically short life as she is wooed by the promise of life in artistic, learned Florence, befriended by the mighty Medici family, and receives the mixed blessing of being declared the most beautiful woman in Florence. Her story as told by Palombo (The Violinist of Venice) is a sad one, but also strikingly feminist as she fights to be acknowledged for her sharp mind and education, and scorns the attention paid to her because of her fair face. Ironically, it is an artist who sees past her looks to the curious and thoughtful woman within, and through that relationship with him she is immortalized in some of the most treasured works of the Renaissance. Though little is known of her real life, this story gathers what scraps of fact exist to build a compelling narrative that is difficult to put down.
The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is a compelling read. The relationship between Simonetta and Botticelli is complex and yet beautifully drawn. Ms Palumbo Weaves fiction and history in a most fascinating manner. I wanted more when the novel ended..
A must read if you like this genre.