Two novels that I greatly enjoyed reading: historical fiction drawing on the lives of great historic figures in poetry; in art & architecture.
Historical fiction: “The Dante Club” by Matthew Pearl; “Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo” by Stephanie Storey.
The Dante Club — Matthew Pearl (c) 2003.
A very imaginative fictional murder mystery and historical fiction, set in Boston, in 1865, at the end of the Civil War.
The title of the novel comes from the original Dante’s Club formed when the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow undertook the first American translation of Dante Alighieri’s poem “The Divine Comedy” .
The other members of the Dante Club were the physician & poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes, the poet James Russell Lowell; historian George Washington Greene, a longtime friend of Longfellow; and publisher J. T. Fields.
The Dante Club later became the Dante Society of America.
In the novel, the murders mirror in gruesome detail the punishments suffered by sinners in the canticle “The Inferno” in Dante’s poem. The members of the Dante Club become involved in solving the murder mystery.
“Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo” by Stephanie Storey (c) 2016.
This is a fictional story about the artistic rivalry between two geniuses, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
The fictional story draws its ideas from the real historical period, from 1501—1505, when both Leonardo and Michelangelo lived and worked in Florence. In those few years, two iconic works were created: Leonardo’s painting “The Mona Lisa” and Michelangelo’s sculpture of “David”.
The novel focuses on the individual creativity of the two men, and the conflicts and competition between them when they both want to create the sculpture of “David” for the city of Florence.
Other great Renaissance figures in the story, like the artists Botticelli, Granacci, Perugino and the sculptor Sangallo, add depth and detail, making more vivid the story of artistic creativity and differences.
This was also a time of intense political rivalries and intrigues. In the novel, the impact of church and political power struggles on Leonardo and Michelangelo is conveyed very effectively by including the historical personages of Niccolo Machiavelli, and the Borgia and the Medici families.