The Forgery of Venus
By Michael Gruber
(William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780060874483, 336pp.)
Publication Date: April 2008
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Chaz Wilmot is a painter born outside his time. He possesses a virtuosic command of the techniques of the old masters. He can paint like Leonardo, Goya, Gainsborough—artists whose works sell for millions—but this style of painting is no longer popular, and he refuses to shape his talent to fit the fashion of the day. So Wilmot makes his living cranking out parodies for ads and magazine covers. A break comes when an art dealer obtains for him a commission to restore a Venetian palace fresco by the eighteenth-century master Tiepolo, for a disreputable Italian businessman. Once there, Wilmot discovers that it is not a restoration but a re-creation, indeed a forgery. At first skeptical of the job, he then throws himself into the creative challenge and does the job brilliantly. No one can tell the modern work from something done more than two hundred years ago.
This feat attracts the attention of Werner Krebs, an art dealer with a dark past and shadier present who becomes Wilmot's friend and patron. Wilmot is suddenly working with a fervor he hasn't felt in years, but his burst of creative activity is accompanied by strange interludes: Without warning, he finds himself reliving moments from his past—not as memories but as if they are happening all over again. Soon, it is no longer his own past he's revisiting; he believes he can travel back to the seventeenth century, where he lived as the Spanish artist Diego Rodríguez de Silva Velázquez, one of the most famous painters in history. Wilmot begins to fantasize that as Velázquez, he has created a masterpiece, a stunning portrait of a nude. When the painting actually turns up, he doesn't know if he painted it or if he imagined the whole thing.
Little by little, Wilmot enters a mirror house of illusions and hallucinations that propels him into a secret world of gangsters, greed, and murder, with his mystery patron at the center of it all, either as the mastermind behind a plot to forge a painting worth hundreds of millions, or as the man who will save Wilmot from obscurity and madness.
In Chaz Wilmot, we meet the rarest breed of literary hero, one for whom the reader feels almost personally responsible. By turns brutally honest and self-deceptive, scornful of the world while yearning to make his mark on it, Wilmot comes astonishingly alive for the reader, and his perilous journey toward the truth becomes our own.
The Forgery of Venus, a blend of erudition, unflagging narrative brio, and emotional depth, brings us inexorably toward the intersection where genius and insanity collide. Miraculously inventive, this book cements Gruber's reputation as one of the most imaginative and gifted writers of our time.
“Smart and literate. Gruber approaches art with obvious appreciation, and has woven a clever story with plenty of detail.”
“Tantalizing...exhilarating. Retains the power from the first chapter to keep readers desperate for the suspenseful, addictive fix of every succeeding one. FORGERY OF VENUS is a highly intelligent novel that entertains and educates.”
“A quick and sharp romp through the art world. Downright delicious.”
“Irresistible. Fast, Frightening and, as usual, richly imagined.”
-Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“Gruber writes thrillers for smart people. This novel is about art and creativity. That sounds lofty, but Gruber gives it humor and heart. The ensuing drama, involving a forgery believed to be the work of Diego Velazquez, keeps you on your toes.”
“Michael Gruber giv(es) us a finale in which the excitement level is high because we don’t know who, if anyone, to trust. It’s a satisfying conclusion, one that will leave readers debating the morality of Wilmot’s final decision.”
“THE FORGERY OF VENUS is the latest in Gruber’s series of amazing books. He has applied his deft touch to everything from Shakespeare to shamanism, yielding a finely drawn portrait of an engrossing world every time.“
-New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Michael Gruber’s large and growing number of fans won’t be disappointed with his sixth novel, a thriller in the art history vein. He’s woven a tale within a tale within a tale, all filled with marvelous twists and turns that build suspense and heighten the mystery until the satisfying conclusion.”
-Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“This is an art lover’s dream. Mystery and obsession are textured with art history in a plot that explores not only the shifting nature of art, but also the complex nature of identity.
-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Gruber writes with a deft hand, creating a fallen hero who is likeable despite his faults.”
“Stunning...utterly unique, and breathtakingly original. It’s one of those novels you want to press upon your friends, fully confident that it will not disappoint. It’s a tour de force performance from Gruber, and a novel worthy of considerable attention.”
-Edmonton Journal (Canada)
“Gruber is on a roll…[a] terrific art-historical thriller…a perfect place to get lost for a few days. Once again, Gruber mines a popular vein and strikes gold.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“This terrific art thriller has history, thieves, insider snippets and a convoluted plot to keep you guessing.”
-Toronto Globe and Mail
“(An) imaginative novel of psychological suspense.”
“Michael Gruber has created a first-rate thriller that throws the reader into the art world, past and present.”
-Chronicle Herald, Nova Scotia
“Ingenious...The author owns his subject matter and packs it with well-researched details, making this...a successful, suspenseful examination of insanity, forgery and reality.”
“Gruber writes passionately and knowledgeably about art and its history--and he writes brilliantly about the shadowy lines that blur reality and unreality. Fans of intelligent, literate thrillers will be well rewarded.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Michael Gruber’s new thriller, THE FORGERY OF VENUS, is as layered as a luminous portrait by an old master. A tour-de-force combination of suspense and characterization, as well as a primer on the world of art and art forgery.”