I am Venus: A Novel

I am Venus: A Novel

by Barbara Mujica
     
 

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In this breathtaking historical novel by the acclaimed author of the bestselling Frida, Bárbara Mujica reimagines the dramatic life and loves of the Baroque Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. Narrated by the mysterious model who posed for The Toilet of Venus, his only surviving female nude, I Am Venus is the riveting account of a great artist’s

Overview

In this breathtaking historical novel by the acclaimed author of the bestselling Frida, Bárbara Mujica reimagines the dramatic life and loves of the Baroque Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. Narrated by the mysterious model who posed for The Toilet of Venus, his only surviving female nude, I Am Venus is the riveting account of a great artist’s rise to prominence, set against the backdrop of political turmoil and romantic scandal.
The year is 1619, and Diego Velázquez is a rising star at an art academy in Seville run by his father-in-law. But even as his young wife builds him a family, the painter yearns for a larger canvas, and soon his ambition lands him at the court of King Philip IV, where he quickly gains prominence, just as Spain is plunged into military defeat and domestic chaos.
But as he gains nobility and privilege, Velázquez encounters the sinful decadence that defines the regime. At the heart of this most conservative country, its ruling class breaks every rule that the masses must obey. As he finds himself torn between loyalty to family and the easy seductions of power, Velázquez decides to take on his riskiest painting yet, which could, in a stroke, land him in the claws of the Inquisition.
A sweeping story of scandal and passion, and a vivid recreation of a corrupt kingdom on the brink of collapse, I Am Venus is a thrilling novel that brings to life the public and private worlds of Spain’s greatest painter.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for I Am Venus:

“Mujica’s prose is vigorous and intense, and the story is paradoxically both dark and illuminating.” —-Kirkus Reviews

"The exploration of [the characters'] daily lives, with a particular focus on Velzquez’s wife and her ladies-in-waiting, paints a picture that is deliciously contradictory to the perfect representation demanded of Velzquez by the royal court. Mujica…instantly creates a sensory world for her readers to inhabit."—Booklist

Praise for Frida

“Vivid . . . Frida burns with dramatic urgency.” —-The New York Times Book Review

“A delicious blend of fiction and biography. . . . A captivating introduction to the life-—and death—-of Frida Kahlo.” —-Grand Rapids Press

“The best kind of fictionalized biography: rich, vibrant, and psychologically acute.” —-Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Sister Teresa

“Eschewing sacred sentiment for rich, gritty anecdotes, Sister Teresa, Bárbara Mujica’s well-researched novel, reimagines famed 16th-century Teresa of Ávila as a vibrant and fully fleshed woman not above vanity, deceit, and a little pre-convent hanky-panky.” -—Entertainment Weekly

“A lively, vivid, and fast-paced story . . . Bárbara Mujica is extraordinarily qualified to bring together the ethos of 16th-century Spain with a woman from that era whom no one can ignore, St. Teresa of Ávila . . . Mujica [is] a natural storyteller.” —-America

“Engaging . . . Mujica’s fictional narrator, Sister Angelica, steals the show . . . Despite the many ugly historical events, such as the Spanish Inquisition, that figure into the story, it is surprisingly light and entertaining.” —-Publishers Weekly
 

Library Journal
Spain, early 17th century. The Inquisition is at its peak, and the arrival of the Renaissance has flared tensions between the country’s Catholic and artistic communities. Here the story takes root, with favored court painter Diego Vel?zquez pursuing his greatest work yet: a female nude, a Venus—the ultimate artistic triumph, albeit an illegal one, for a man who seeks to perfect his talent and make his mark. But as a member of the politically turbulent court of King Philip IV, the artist finds that avoiding detection will be difficult—with animosity high and the rumor mill in overdrive, choosing a woman to play his Venus may be the very cause of his downfall.

Verdict Mujica’s third historical novel (after Sister Teresa and Frida) is a well-plotted read with engaging characters and rich detail. Fans of Tracy Chevalier and Elizabeth Kostova as well as art history buffs will enjoy Mujica’s interpretation.—Leigh Wright, Bridgewater, NJ
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
Incidents in the life of Diego Velázquez, the most prominent artist in 17th-century Spain, as filtered through the consciousness of his mysterious model for the Rokeby Venus. Velázquez was determined to become a painter at the court of King Philip IV, and to his credit, the king recognized the painter's genius. Still, there was much court intrigue and plotting to get this sinecure. Mujica exposes the personal side of Velázquez by focusing on his ambition and on his relationship with his wife, Juana, and his daughters, two of whom died. As one might intuit, Velázquez's domestic relationship was tempestuous. Juana's father was Francisco Pacheco, an art critic, artist and founder of an art academy, and he recognized the gifts of his son-in-law. Juana was given to fits of jealousy, most of them justified by Velázquez's outrageous behavior and neglect of familial duties and obligations. On the happy occasion of the birth of Francisca, his first daughter, for example, we're told that Velázquez "had more important things...to think about," like getting back to a portrait. We follow Velázquez on his journeys to Italy, during one of which he had an affair and fathered a son. On his return to Spain, he got a commission from an enigmatic patron to paint a nude Venus, a kind of erotic painting proscribed both by custom and by the Inquisition, but Velázquez defied these conventions, using a model with whom he was (again) having an affair. Mujica's prose is vigorous and intense, and the story is paradoxically both dark and illuminating.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781468306576
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
06/13/2013
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 8.18(h) x 1.04(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

Praise for I Am Venus:

“Mujica’s prose is vigorous and intense, and the story is paradoxically both dark and illuminating.” —-Kirkus Reviews

"The exploration of [the characters'] daily lives, with a particular focus on Velzquez’s wife and her ladies-in-waiting, paints a picture that is deliciously contradictory to the perfect representation demanded of Velzquez by the royal court. Mujica…instantly creates a sensory world for her readers to inhabit."—Booklist

Praise for Frida

“Vivid . . . Frida burns with dramatic urgency.” —-The New York Times Book Review

“A delicious blend of fiction and biography. . . . A captivating introduction to the life-—and death—-of Frida Kahlo.” —-Grand Rapids Press

“The best kind of fictionalized biography: rich, vibrant, and psychologically acute.” —-Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Sister Teresa

“Eschewing sacred sentiment for rich, gritty anecdotes, Sister Teresa, Bárbara Mujica’s well-researched novel, reimagines famed 16th-century Teresa of ávila as a vibrant and fully fleshed woman not above vanity, deceit, and a little pre-convent hanky-panky.” -—Entertainment Weekly

“A lively, vivid, and fast-paced story . . . Bárbara Mujica is extraordinarily qualified to bring together the ethos of 16th-century Spain with a woman from that era whom no one can ignore, St. Teresa of ávila . . . Mujica [is] a natural storyteller.” —-America

“Engaging . . . Mujica’s fictional narrator, Sister Angelica, steals the show . . . Despite the many ugly historical events, such as the Spanish Inquisition, that figure into the story, it is surprisingly light and entertaining.” —-Publishers Weekly
 

Meet the Author

Bárbara Mujica is a novelist, short story writer, critic, professor of Spanish at Georgetown University, and a contributor to many publications, such as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. She is the author of the novels The Deaths of Don Bernardo, Frida, and Sister Teresa, and lives in Washington, D.C.

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