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The Secret of the Gondola by David Alan…

The Secret of the Gondola

by David Alan Brown

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Young art historian Jeremy Allyn is working on his thesis but struggling to find a new take on meticulous 18th-century painter Canaletto's work. But after seeing the exhibition "Venice: Canaletto and his rivals" at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, he decides to study the artists tiny but detailed human figures. Jeremy discovers that Canaletto may have used a camera obscura (a portable box in which an image projected through a lens onto a mirror was reflected on a glass screen, where it was traced by the artist) to capture the intricate detail of his painting scenes.

On the way to visit Canaletto's (fictional) painting at the Columbia Museum of Art, Jeremy stops at Newport News to view the gondola and felze (canopy) in the Mariners' Museum that was previously owned by landscape painter Thomas Moran. Moran had often told friends that the gondola had once been owned by poet Robert Browning who wrote "In a Gondola" in 1842 about a gondola ride by forbidden lovers, one of whom is murdered. Jeremy discovers a coat of arms hidden among the decorative swags and swirls on the gondola which indicates that the original owner of the gondola may have been the Malipiero family. Count Andrea Malipiero married a much younger woman and rumour has it that she had a liaison with a young Englishman who disappeared. Once he reaches South Carolina and is able to view the original painting, Jeremy uses apps on his smartphone which help to uncover a centuries-old murder, solving what he believes could have happened to the missing Englishman, lover of Malipiero's wife.

The action in this book takes place over a single day. It's an interesting read, and a great concept, but I would have liked to have seen it approached in a slightly different manner. ( )
  DebbieMcCauley | Dec 10, 2015 |
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Surveying the scene from the Dogana, Canaletto seems to have stumbled upon a murder taking place before him and put it in his painting. To decipher the episode depicted in the Bacino, Jeremy exploited several functions of his smartphone. The informational apps provided the context for the murder, while the camera captured its image in the painting. Jeremy wondered whether Canaletto had not also viewed the event through the portable camera of his day ?the camera obscura, used as an aid to drawing outdoors. ... Jeremy could just imagine how Canaletto, breathless with excitement, had quickly sketched the momentary image projected on the screen.… (more)

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