By Laura Morelli
When I first saw the cover for The Stolen Lady, I was intrigued. Then I read the description. That is when I knew I had to read this book. The book combines the story behind Leonarda da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and efforts by the Louvre staff to protect her from the Nazis.
The Stolen Lady took quite some time for me to read. I am not a fast reader to begin with, and I broke away from this book to read others. This is a great story, but it just did not keep my attention. There are parts that were heart-pumping, making me want to continue to see what would happen next. Then there were times when I looked ahead to see how much farther I had to get to a stopping point. (I do not like to stop mid-chapter.)
The Stolen Lady is written from the points of view of three people vital to the Mona Lisa’s history: Leonardo da Vinci, the artist; Bellina, Lisa’s servant; and Anne, a Louvre archivist who, along with other staff members from the Louvre, will stop at nothing to protect the masterpieces in her care, especially the iconic Mona Lisa.
Leonardo da Vinci’s chapters are written in first person. They give the reader insight into his thoughts and motivations. It is as if the author was inside his head in the 1500s. The reader gets a good idea of da Vinci’s eccentricities and attitudes toward different classes of people and different commissions. Morelli shows da Vinci’s reluctance to paint Lisa, a merchant’s wife, and then how that reluctance turned to obsession at making sure she was perfect.
Bellina has been responsible for Lisa since the day Lisa’s father put her in Bellina’s arms the day of Lisa’s christening. Bellina was just a child herself at the time, but she took her responsibilities seriously, always putting the needs of her mistress ahead of her own.
Last, but certainly not least, is Anne. She and other staff members travel all over France in an attempt to keep the Louvre’s priceless treasures out of the hands of the Nazis.
I will be honest here. The historical aspects of the book are what drew me in. The fact that The Stolen Lady centered around the Mona Lisa had less to do with my interest than the time periods in which the book took place. I am quite literal by nature. I have never been one to look at a piece of art and see hidden meanings or try to figure out what the artist was thinking when s/he was painting a specific piece. I have always wondered why a painting could not just be a reflection of what the artist was seeing at that moment in time – no hidden messages or meanings or revelations of a particular mood. That is not to say that I do not appreciate masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa as well as other forms of art. The web of stories that intertwined to create the Mona Lisa’s story as presented by Morellie makes me wish I could travel to Paris and see hre in person just to sit and study her for as long as I wanted.
I do not know if the events in The Stolen Lady unfolded in the real world they way they did in the book’s world. Howecer, if Laura Morelli told me everything in The Stolen Lady was factual, I would believe her. She describes historical events in a way that could very well be first-hand accounts. More than that, she is an internationally recognized art historian. I cannot imagine anyone who would know the story of the Mona Lisa better that Laura Morelli.
As for the book, the story was good, but it seemed to drag a bit too long. Some details could have probably been omitted without taking away from the story itself. The chapters about Bellina and Anne are written in third person, unlike Leonardo’s first person point of view. This, in my view, takes a little bit away from the story because it does not seem the reader is seeing everything from their points of view personally. Instead, they are written more like passed down stories from someone who may or may not have been there when things happened. I would have enjoyed the book more if all three chapters had been in first person. Nonetheless, I am glad I chose to read The Stolen Lady. Anyone who loves history and/or art will surely enjoy The Stolen Lady.