It started slow but at some point I recognized another character’s name and did a little Google search – voila! Many of the characters here are historical, not just Fillipo Lippi, the “Painter of Souls,” but Masaccio, Masolino and others. And of course the Chapel of Brancacci in Florence is historical.
The book took on two distinct flavors for me – 1. How does anyone know that – sources please – I want to be able to separate fact from fiction. And then there’s question 2 – How fascinating that someone put together what they could and embellished to fill it out! There really is a fair amount of information about Fillipo Lippi available, but not all this stuff of his youth. What there is is mainly from a 16th century art historian – but that info shows up in a lot of places.
The Painter of Souls
by Phillip Kazan
2016 / 261 pages (Kindle)
Rating: 8 / historical fiction
I understand this is the first of a series of novels about Lippi so this only goes through his youth.
In The Painter of Souls young Lippi starts out life as the son of a bankrupt butcher with a dying mother and he’s sent to his aunt’s and then to the local Carmelite monastery. He’s taken in but it’s expected he’ll get in trouble because that’s his way to this point.
His drawing saves him. While he was on the streets people bought his paintings or bartered for them. His drawings are found hidden in his room. He’s protected by his new teacher, Masacchio, and is sent to Pisa for more training.
But Lippi is not really cut out for the priesthood – he wants to make love to the women he paints and he still wants to drink wine and gamble. He still has friends on the streets as well as enemies even though he’s about 15 years old now even if he is doing some important work at the Chapel.