Sunday, July 10, 2011

Blog Tour: Mary Hoffman's YA Historical 'DAVID'

Welcome to Mary Hoffman's blog tour! This is the 7th stop - click on the banner above to view the tour itinerary and follow the tour. Firstly, a little bit of information about the upcoming book DAVID...

David by Mary Hoffman {goodreads}
Michelangelo’s statue of David is famous around the world. Millions flock to Italy every year to admire the physical perfection of the young man captured within the marble. But the identity of the model has never been known . . . until now.

In this epic tale, acclaimed author Mary Hoffman imagines the story of Gabriele, a naïve but incredibly handsome young man who is hired as Michelangelo’s model, only to find himself drawn into a world of spies, political treachery, and murder.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of Florence in its most turbulent times, this is a rich, colorful and thrilling tale that gives life to one of the world’s greatest masterpieces.
  1. What are your favourite works of art?

Michelangelo’s Pietà, Slaves, Brutus, Bacchus and the little Apollo/David

Michaelangelo's Pietà
Funnily enough, David is not my favourite of Michelangelo’s sculptures! I prefer the little Apollo-David in the Bargello and his first Pietà – the one in Rome, where the Virgin looks so young. There is a tradition that he based her face on that of his own mother, who died young after giving birth to five sons, at the age of twenty-six. I’ve used that in the book.

Brutus is a bust, which looks like Tommy Lee Jones; the Slaves or Prisoners are still mainly trapped in their blocks of marble and can be seen in the aisle leading up to the original David in the Accademia.

Simone Martini’s Annunciation and the Montefiore Chapel in Assisi

If Michelangelo is my favourite sculptor, then Simone Martini is definitely my favourite painter! The golden Annunciation in the Uffizi, with its angel with pheasant-feathered wings and tartan cloak and the Virgin looking horrified, is worth the price of admission alone and is my favourite painting in the whole world.

When I was writing The Falconer’s Knot, I was able to make Simone one of the characters – much to his surprise. He was painting the Monefiore Chapel in the Basilica at Assisi at the time – 1316 – the book is set and using pigments ground by the friars and nuns (according to me) in the places where a string of murders is happening.

And that made me look closely at the chapel. It is a real marvel: a jewel-casket as one art historian called it. It contains a possible self-portrait, which gave the idea for Simone’s “sucking lemons” face and, in the Knighting of Saint Martin, a perfect picture of medieval courtly life.

Giotto’s Arena Chapel in Padua

This is another box of treasure but you can spend only a very limited time – 20 minutes at most – in it. It’s amazing to think it has been there for 700 years, since Giotto was commissioned to paint a set of frescoes depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin and of Jesus.

It would seem familiar from a hundred Christmas cards if you found yourself there and thinking you didn’t know it.

Fra Angelico’s frescoes at San Marco

There seem to be a lot of fresco-cycles in my list! I probably do prefer them to easel-paintings. And these ones by Fra (Brother) Angelico are spectacular. My absolute favourite is Noli me Tangere (do not touch me) in which Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection.

This is what Gabriele the stonecutter thinks when he sees it, in David: “He was putting out a warning hand for her not to touch Him. The thought struck me that Jesus in this painting was like a newly-hatched butterfly, still damp and weak, not yet ready to spend His brief remaining lifespan on the earth.  I hoped this thought wasn’t blasphemy.”

So “Don’t touch me” isn’t rejecting; it’s just ‘I can’t manage human contact yet.”

Andrea del Sarto’s St John the Baptist

Now this IS an easel painting. It’s in the Pitti Palace and I revisited it in April this year (2011). St John is impossibly handsome and romantic, with long dark curly hair, a beautiful hairless chest and big soulful dark eyes. About as different from the scruffy bloke living off locusts and wearing hairy animal skins in the desert as you can imagine.

But it is such a compelling painting and a great favourite with teenage girls, which I had not long stopped being when I first saw it.

Donatello’s Mary Magdalene

Donatello is my second favourite sculptor, a great artist, and this statue could not be more different from handsome David or the del Sarto Baptist.  It’s made of wood and is currently in the museum called Opere del Duomo in Florence. Mary Magadalene is not a beautiful young woman, as in Fra Angelico’s picture. She is old, toothless, a raddled crone who long hair looks as matted as the shaggy animal robe she wears.

It is a really remarkable depiction and incredibly modern in concept. But it has a strong spiritual significance; this is what a forgiven sinner might really look like.

Thank you Mary for revealing your favourite artworks and congratulations on your upcoming release with David! I will be posting my review on the blog closer to the release date.

About the author:
Mary was born in a 'dull little town' which grew up around the railways. In 1970 she started writing her first book, which as published in 1975 as White Magic. Since then, she has written about eighty books for children, but the Stravaganza series City of Masks is the longest since the first. Mary got married in 1972 to Stephen Barber, who is half Indian and has three daughters. They moved from London to a big old converted barn in West Oxfordshire in early 2001 and most of City of Masks was written in Mary's lovely new study there. Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman is on the New York Public Library's 2003 Books for the Teen Age list.

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