Christiana Moreau conducts an artistic and historical investigation
After La Sonate oubliée [The Lost Sonata] and Cachemire rouge [Red Cashmere], Belgian novelist Christiana Moreau takes us on an artistic investigation in Florence. Based in both the present day and the late Middle Ages of the Quattrocento, she goes in search of the origins of La Dame d’Argile [The Clay Lady], a splendid terracotta sculpture that her heroine discovers in her Tuscan grandmother's attic. This story sees the destinies of four exceptional women unfold.
Sabrina, an art historian and restorer attached to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels, is enraptured by a terracotta sculpture depicting the bust of a young woman of incomparable beauty, signed Costanza Marsiato. And so begins an investigation into the land of her ancestors and into Simonetta Vespucci, the model for the sculpture. She was known as "La sans pareille", or the Unparalleled One. Considered the greatest beauty of her age, she was the favourite model and muse of the greatest Florentine artists of the late fifteenth century as well as that of Costanza Marsiato, the imaginary artist who decided to portray her. Costanza Marsiato was forced to disguise herself as a boy in order to practice her art and thus risked her life under the theocratic dictatorship of Savonarola. We also explore the life of Angela, the sculpture's owner, who has just joined her husband, a miner in the Liège region who was expatriated under the 1946 coal treaty. She will experience the miserable daily life of these immigrants but also the solidarity that allows them to survive.
In addition to being an exceptional work of fiction in more ways than one, this Dame d'Argile is an opportunity for Christiana Moreau to reflect some highly contemporary themes such as immigration, sexism, religious and fanaticism...