Monday, September 01, 2008

THE FORGERY OF VENUS by Michael Gruber

I love the way Gruber paces his novels and engages me culturally. In THE FORGERY OF VENUS, painter Chaz Wilmot makes his living producing parodies for ads and magazine covers and squeezes by financially to support his ex-wife and children. His talent is, however, of another time when portrait painters such as Rubens, Titian, Rembrandt and Velasquez created canvases that read like photographs.

Wilmot gets two breaks: one financial where he agrees to participate in a drug study led by a former university peer who is interested in its effect on creativity, and one creative where an art dealer arranges a commission for him to restore a fresco in a Venetian palazzo.

During the drug trials Wilmot experiences hallucinations where he becomes younger versions of himself as well as time travels and becomes the esteemed Spanish 17th century painter Diego Velasquez, the finest portraitist of his time.

Back in the present in NYC Wilmot suffers a mental breakdown and then finds himself able to create a portrait of Venus, in a style that is indistinguishable from the work of the original master. This forgery stands to make Wilmot a very rich man who will finally be able to provide the exclusive private health care his son Milo needs to survive his childhood.

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