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The Marriage Portrait (Paperback)Maggie O'Farrell (author)
O'Farrell paints as evocative a picture of Renaissance Italy as she did Shakespearean England in the former Waterstones Book of the Year Hamnet, as Cosimo de' Medici's third daughter learns to navigate an opaque Florentine court and an enigmatic new husband.
Shortlisted for The British Book Awards 2023 Fiction Book of the Year
'I thought I had made myself clear,' Alfonso murmurs, barely opening his lips. 'I want something that conveys her… how to put this… her majesty, her bloodline. Do you understand? She is no ordinary mortal: treat her thus. Ensure, please, that the portrait reflects that, above anything else. I want everyone who looks upon this to know instantly what she is: regal, refined, untouchable.'
Florence, the 1560s. Lucrezia, third daughter of Cosimo de’ Medici, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and to devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of marriage to Alfonso d’Este, ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father to accept on her behalf.
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate her appears before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
As Lucrezia sits in uncomfortable finery for the painting which is to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferrarese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.
With the drama and verve with which she illuminated the Shakespearean canvas of Hamnet, winner of the Waterstones Book of the Year and the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020, Maggie O’Farrell brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life, and offers an unforgettable portrait of a resilient young woman’s battle for her very survival.
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Number of pages: 448
Weight: 388 g
Dimensions: 196 x 128 x 38 mm
'Every bit as evocative and spellbinding as Hamnet. O'Farrell, thank God, just seems to be getting better and better... O'Farrell's writing is so vivid it melts away the time and space between now and 16th-century Italy... with The Marriage Portrait, then, O'Farrell hasn't just produced another magnificently transporting page-turner. She has given us an exhilarating, devastating look at women's captivity, creativity and ultimately, rebellion in a world run by some very cruel men' - i newspaper
'Finely written and vividly imagined, it is far from being simplistic, but there is an engaging simplicity to it... a very good one to be read, as publishers used to say, by "children of all ages"' - Guardian
'In O'Farrell's hands, historical detail comes alive... evocative, moving and sensitively rendered' - Spectator'Her writing is exquisite. Immersive and compelling' - Marian Keyes
'An extraordinary writer with a profound understanding of the most elemental human bonds' - Observer
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Maggie O’Farrell tells the little known story of Lucrezia, a daughter of Cosimo di Medici who, aged 16 is married to Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara and within a year and a half she was dead.
Lucrezia slowly tells us about... More
Wow! I’m ashamed to admit that Hamnet was the first book I read by O’Farrell and I wasn’t sure if it was a one-off belter so I’m thrilled to discover that The Marriage Portrait is equally superb. A perfect blend of... More
“Storytelling at it’s finest!”
Upon reading Robert Browning’s brilliant 1842 poem, My Last Duchess, Maggie O’Farrell was inspired to investigate the titular duchess further. On seeing a photographic image of the 1560’s Bronzino portrait of... More
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