Laura's Blog

First Reviews for Da Vinci's Tiger!

September 27, 2015

I am thrilled to share two wonderful reviews for DA VINCI'S TIGER, for which I am very grateful. First is a starred review in Publishers' Weekly, and now a School Library Journal critique that calls the novel a "gem," and which recognized one of the novel's predominate themes: that "empowerment comes from within."

Starred Review in Publishers’ Weekly:

 “I beg your pardon, I am a mountain tiger.” This is the only surviving sentence from the poetry of Ginevra de’ Benci, who posed for a portrait by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 1470s. The creation of this portrait is the subject of Elliott’s delicately beautiful novel. Ginevra, a well-educated and intelligent young woman, seeks intellectual and romantic fulfillment in the aristocratic circles of Florence. Her arranged marriage, while friendly, is dull, and the ambassador from Venice, Bernardo Bembo, wants her to be his Platonic muse—a Renaissance form of romance in which a man idealizes a woman, declaring that he will meditate on her beauty, grace, and virtue to guide his soul to God. Bembo’s love can give Ginevra access to the sparkling life of the court, but she finds the painter he hires for her portrait very distracting indeed.

Elliott’s novel is thoroughly researched, portraying three-dimensional characters in a lively atmosphere of love and art. Renaissance Florence breathes through this book, bringing readers to a fuller understanding of the portrait, the era, and an indomitable young woman.”

School Library Journal:

Gr 8 Up–Set during the Renaissance, when Florence celebrated art, philosophy, and poetry with fervor, this historical fiction title is about Ginevra de’ Benci, a 17-year-old married woman who is stifled by societal norms. Then she meets Bernardo Bembo, the ambassador from Venice, who is so taken by Ginevra’s intellect and poetic talent that he asks her to be his Platonic Love. In an era where marriages were business arrangements, it wasn’t uncommon for wealthy men to bestow admiration upon married women through a chaste romance. To proclaim his platonic love for Ginevra, Bembo commissions her portrait by the up-and-coming artist Leonardo da Vinci. As Ginevra and Leonardo form a profound friendship, Ginevra comes of age in a city full of art, beauty, and violent family feuds. This is an intriguing, albeit leisurely paced, story about a real historical figure, the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s early portrait of a Florentine socialite. As is evident from the book’s afterword, Elliott meticulously researched the 15th century to bring alive the affluence, art, and clothing Florence was known for—fully immersing readers in the time period. 

In many ways, this novel is a feminist piece. Ginevra lives during a time in which the only way for women to study philosophy and art was in a convent, and once married, women had little to no formal education, as they became the property of their husbands. Breaking this mold, Ginevra learns that her empowerment comes from within, despite the limitations put on her sex. VERDICT Add this gem to round out collections skewed toward 20th-century history.                                                                      

–Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

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