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Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo

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From 1501—1505, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself. Michelangelo is a virtual unknown when he returns to Florence and wins the commission to carve what wi From 1501—1505, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself. Michelangelo is a virtual unknown when he returns to Florence and wins the commission to carve what will become one of the most famous sculptures of all time: David. Even though his impoverished family shuns him for being an artist, he is desperate to support them. Living at the foot of his misshapen block of marble, Michelangelo struggles until the stone finally begins to speak. Working against an impossible deadline, he begins his feverish carving. Meanwhile, Leonardo’s life is falling apart: he loses the hoped-for David commission; he can’t seem to finish any project; he is obsessed with his ungainly flying machine; he almost dies in war; his engineering designs disastrously fail; and he is haunted by a woman he has seen in the market—a merchant’s wife, whom he is finally commissioned to paint. Her name is Lisa, and she becomes his muse. Leonardo despises Michelangelo for his youth and lack of sophistication. Michelangelo both loathes and worships Leonardo’s genius. Oil and Marble is the story of their nearly forgotten rivalry. Storey brings early 16th-century Florence alive, and has entered with extraordinary empathy into the minds and souls of two Renaissance masters. The book is an art history thriller.


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From 1501—1505, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself. Michelangelo is a virtual unknown when he returns to Florence and wins the commission to carve what wi From 1501—1505, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself. Michelangelo is a virtual unknown when he returns to Florence and wins the commission to carve what will become one of the most famous sculptures of all time: David. Even though his impoverished family shuns him for being an artist, he is desperate to support them. Living at the foot of his misshapen block of marble, Michelangelo struggles until the stone finally begins to speak. Working against an impossible deadline, he begins his feverish carving. Meanwhile, Leonardo’s life is falling apart: he loses the hoped-for David commission; he can’t seem to finish any project; he is obsessed with his ungainly flying machine; he almost dies in war; his engineering designs disastrously fail; and he is haunted by a woman he has seen in the market—a merchant’s wife, whom he is finally commissioned to paint. Her name is Lisa, and she becomes his muse. Leonardo despises Michelangelo for his youth and lack of sophistication. Michelangelo both loathes and worships Leonardo’s genius. Oil and Marble is the story of their nearly forgotten rivalry. Storey brings early 16th-century Florence alive, and has entered with extraordinary empathy into the minds and souls of two Renaissance masters. The book is an art history thriller.

30 review for Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    3.5 stars I saw the Mona Lisa once, and to be honest I was a little disappointed that it was so small, covered in a glass box surrounded by pushing and shoving tourists in a very small room. I found the rest of the Louvre a lot more impressive. I knew very little about Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and the strength of this book was how educational it was for me. I was absolutely fascinated by the facts that came out of the story. I googled along with my reading as at times I thought surely th 3.5 stars I saw the Mona Lisa once, and to be honest I was a little disappointed that it was so small, covered in a glass box surrounded by pushing and shoving tourists in a very small room. I found the rest of the Louvre a lot more impressive. I knew very little about Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and the strength of this book was how educational it was for me. I was absolutely fascinated by the facts that came out of the story. I googled along with my reading as at times I thought surely the author was making up stories. But it turns out that the character actions were mostly true to history. I found Michelangelo’s story-line the most fascinating and I think its because the author clearly favoured this artist, making him the poor man suffering for his art while Leonardo was depicted as a pompous dandy with an overinflated ego. Michelangelo’s initial struggles with the block of marble that would become his iconic David statue had me at the edge of my seat even though I KNEW that he actually finished this. Leonardo’s painting of the Mona Lisa almost felt like a side story as the focus was more on his wild inventions. This book was absolutely worth my time even if I felt that the author was a bit heavy handed in her good vs evil depiction of the two artists. I took away so much knowledge of this time period and the art pieces in question. If you have never read anything about these two artists, then you should pick this up. The writing may not win any literary prizes (in fact I wanted to lower my rating a little because of that) but it was a book I found hard to put down.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie

    This wonderful historical novel centers on Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti during the years 1501 – 1505 when they both lived and worked in Florence, Italy. Leonardo was in his fifties and an established artist. Michelangelo was in his twenties and had just completed “The Pieta” in Rome and had returned to Florence to make a name for himself and to support his family. When Michelangelo wins the Duccio stone commission and begins his beloved “David” sculpture, Leonardo is working on This wonderful historical novel centers on Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti during the years 1501 – 1505 when they both lived and worked in Florence, Italy. Leonardo was in his fifties and an established artist. Michelangelo was in his twenties and had just completed “The Pieta” in Rome and had returned to Florence to make a name for himself and to support his family. When Michelangelo wins the Duccio stone commission and begins his beloved “David” sculpture, Leonardo is working on “The Mona Lisa”. The author has done a wonderful job of bringing these two art masters to life. This story about the competition between these artists is very believable and enjoyable. The author has an excellent understanding of an artist’s soul and the conflicts that his art creates for him as he struggles to bring forth a masterpiece. Both of these Renaissance masters produced many masterpieces in their lifetime and it was a true pleasure reading about this particular period of their lives and their interaction with each other. I also appreciated the author’s afterward in which she explains what is actual historical fact in her book and what was imagined by her and why. This is historical fiction at its best. Recommended. This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Reilly

    I chose to read this book because I had an upcoming trip to Italy. What a great choice! Who knew that Leonardo and Michelangelo had such a rivalry? It was interesting to learn that being an artist was not admirable and that sculpting was an arduous and and filthy business. Viewing Michelangelo's works in Rome was a completely different experience for me because of this book. I chose to read this book because I had an upcoming trip to Italy. What a great choice! Who knew that Leonardo and Michelangelo had such a rivalry? It was interesting to learn that being an artist was not admirable and that sculpting was an arduous and and filthy business. Viewing Michelangelo's works in Rome was a completely different experience for me because of this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    The year is 1501 and Stephanie Storey tells a highly-imagined tale of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarreti as they return to Florence. At fifty years of age, Leonardo is the elder statesman in the area of art and science. Michelangelo considers himself a sculptor and has been distinguishing himself in Rome. The story is about the rivalry between the two men. In Florence, the city fathers have offered a commission to Leonardo to carve the Duccio stone. A huge but damaged piece of marble, The year is 1501 and Stephanie Storey tells a highly-imagined tale of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarreti as they return to Florence. At fifty years of age, Leonardo is the elder statesman in the area of art and science. Michelangelo considers himself a sculptor and has been distinguishing himself in Rome. The story is about the rivalry between the two men. In Florence, the city fathers have offered a commission to Leonardo to carve the Duccio stone. A huge but damaged piece of marble, but he refuses the commission. A destitute Michelangelo takes on the commission. The hostility between the two men goes on while Michelangelo carves David and da Vinci paints the Mona Lisa. The writing is average but the book is well researched. It is written in an entertaining way. The dialogue is sharp and the book is loaded with information. This historical novel reminds me of one of my favorite books from the 1960s by Irving Stone entitled “The Agony and the Ecstasy”. Stone chronicles the painting of the Sistine Chapel. Storey does a good job of accurately portraying the state of renaissance art and Italian politics of the era. Storey brings these two men to life. Storey has a way to go to reach the quality of Irving Stone who is considered a master of the historical novel but she is well on her way. P. J. Ochlan is an author, voice over artist and a multi-award winning audiobook narrator.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Netta

    When I was about 4% into this book, I had a lot to say. A LOT. Then I found a few episodes that I liked – weirdly, I like Storey’s portrayal of Salai. And then I came to the conclusion, that Storey is so confident that everything I have to say would be a waste of words and thoughts who cares. Hence I give it one star and leave it as a one star attempt to write about two brilliant minds, where the star goes mostly for an effort and in memory of all trees which died to provide paper for this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette Lewis

    The author reveals the great rivalry between Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and brings to life these two magnificent artists. In age they are poles apart as well as in style. Leonardo is a fastidious man, egotistical and full of his own fame. Michelangelo on the other hand is a bit of a grub, scruffy, poorly attired and generally has bad body odour due to the lack of washing. Leonardo for the first part of the book is still to paint the Mona Lisa and is madly pursuing recognition for his mec The author reveals the great rivalry between Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and brings to life these two magnificent artists. In age they are poles apart as well as in style. Leonardo is a fastidious man, egotistical and full of his own fame. Michelangelo on the other hand is a bit of a grub, scruffy, poorly attired and generally has bad body odour due to the lack of washing. Leonardo for the first part of the book is still to paint the Mona Lisa and is madly pursuing recognition for his mechanical inventions including his flight apparatus. He suffers failure on a grand scale, however in modern times he has well been acclaimed as a man beyond his time. Michelangelo on the other hand is a young sculptor with his own dreams. He has received in Rome acclaim for his sculpting of the Pieta although the public acclaim first goes to another sculptor. The Pieta was criticised for Mary, mother of Jesus looking too young, nursing the body of her son, a man of her own age. Michelangelo's response "that a woman who is chaste holds a different statute than one who is not". Disillusioned Michelangelo returns to Florence, hoping that in his home city he will receive the acclaim he believes he so deserves. Sadly, this doesn't happen and on returning to the family home he is further admonished by his father for not getting "a proper job" and on continuing with his dream he is actually thrown out of home. There is a lump of stone, the Duccio Stone that needs to be "broken", this lump of marble is a difficult job as there are imperfections and knots throughout it. Leonardo has been given first call on this piece of marble but at this time he is also famous for not finishing any artwork, as well his Last Supper painting because he is a procrastinator discovers that his particular method has meant that it is failing with bits falling off the wall. Michelangelo is eventually awarded the contract and the rest is history. He gives to the world a beautiful creation of the biblical David. Leonardo on the other hand, becomes intrigued by a woman at the marketplace who is allusive appearing and disappearing at random. This intriguing woman eventually after much ado will become his Mona Lisa. Offended by the attitude of the woman's husband he takes the painting back on the basis that isn't finished and retains it for the rest of his life. The ensuing history of this painting is equally fascinating as is the lead up to it and it's finalisation. (The Mona Lisa has received much fame but before the "Da Vinci Code" it was possible to view the painting at the Louvre in Paris without the security there is today. Standing at the foot rail it was not only possible to see the actual canvas and painting close up and (if no sense of propriety able to touch it). Sadly it is now and forever locked away behind a glass vault while hundreds crane their necks to view it. The David after damage by a deranged person is now heavily secured with controlled numbers for it's viewing.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    Because unless he is the master of his own time, he can never be the master of all time. This was a very easy intro into the lives of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The author did a great job setting the scene and place. I'm visiting Italy in April, and will try my utmost to go to Florence to see some of the beautiful places described. Oil and Marble reads like a who's who in the 1500's with a cast of characters that also include Machiavelli, the Borgias and Botticelli. I really enjoyed how Because unless he is the master of his own time, he can never be the master of all time. This was a very easy intro into the lives of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The author did a great job setting the scene and place. I'm visiting Italy in April, and will try my utmost to go to Florence to see some of the beautiful places described. Oil and Marble reads like a who's who in the 1500's with a cast of characters that also include Machiavelli, the Borgias and Botticelli. I really enjoyed how the author tried to describe the different creation processes used by these two artists. She portrays da Vinci as all intellect, jumping from project to project as he gets new ideas, and Michelangelo as intense and emotional, deeply committed to whatever he is working on. Very well researched and readable, I think you would enjoy this is you are in the mood for "lighter" HF read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I love historical fiction, and in particular stories set in this time period and place, as I find it utterly fascinating to learn about a time when so many of the great "gods" of history coexisted and created their enduring masterpieces simultaneously. I was therefore very excited to read this book. Upon starting it however, I was immediately put off by the writing style, which felt as though the narration was being "dumbed down" for the masses - overly colloquial and modernized. Then I began not I love historical fiction, and in particular stories set in this time period and place, as I find it utterly fascinating to learn about a time when so many of the great "gods" of history coexisted and created their enduring masterpieces simultaneously. I was therefore very excited to read this book. Upon starting it however, I was immediately put off by the writing style, which felt as though the narration was being "dumbed down" for the masses - overly colloquial and modernized. Then I began noticing errors in spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and English expressions -- leaving me wondering, could the copy editor have been so remiss?? And then it hit me -- this book must be translated from the original foreign language in which it was written, like Italian or something, and that's why it doesn't flow quite naturally, and has mistakes sprinkled throughout ... but then I confirmed that nope, the author is full fledged English north american, a journalist and published author no less, with an author for a husband too! Which left me very disappointed for the quality of the writing. The story itself is mildly interesting, but in the end hardly covers any ground in this fascinating time in history -- essentially it can be boiled down into a few sentences: Da Vinci paints The Last Supper. Michaelangelo carves the Peita. Each feels threatened by the other. Da Vinci paints Mona Lisa. Michaelangelo carves David. Each is impressed by the other. Both are flawed men. The End. There, I've saved you having to read it. There are many other far superior books on this topic, these people, and this time in history. Choose one of those instead.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    Stephanie Storey’s debut novel has all the elements of fascinating historical fiction. She has re-imagined the lives of artists Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci during a period of four pivotal years (1501-1505) when they both lived and worked in Florence. At this time, Leonardo was 50 years old, his name and reputation secure, while Michelangelo was young, temperamental, and just beginning to make a name for himself. Through the course of a deepening rivalry, the two artists complete their most Stephanie Storey’s debut novel has all the elements of fascinating historical fiction. She has re-imagined the lives of artists Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci during a period of four pivotal years (1501-1505) when they both lived and worked in Florence. At this time, Leonardo was 50 years old, his name and reputation secure, while Michelangelo was young, temperamental, and just beginning to make a name for himself. Through the course of a deepening rivalry, the two artists complete their most famous masterpieces - Michelangelo’s David sculpture, and Leonardo’s Mona Lisa portrait. In the process they find they have much to learn from each other. Storey brings the medieval world of Florence to life, and takes the reader inside the heads and hearts of working artists, men who were both revered and reviled by the public, depending on the day and the work in question - (not unlike the way we treat our celebrities in the 21st century.) She also illuminates some interesting ideas about the approach to making art and the creative process. Leonoardo (who had a passion for engineering and natural science that rivaled his passion for art) approaches painting pragmatically, with a intellectualism and a scientists eye for detail. Michaelangelo, sees with his heart, rather than his mind, and looks at the process of making art as a magical, almost alchemical one of creating beauty. “Emotion without intellect is chaos,” Leonardo says to the younger man. “Chaos erupting into beauty: that’s art,” Michealangelo replies. The author has a clear passion for the world of fine art, and she has put this to good use in her first novel. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    This story begins with two artists returning to Florence. Leonardo da Vinci is returning from Milan, where he worked on designing a horse sculpture - the largest equestrian statue in the world, which was supposed to be cast in iron, but the clay model was destroyed by French soldiers invading Milan. Leonardo was forced to flee Milan. Michelangelo Buonarroti is returning from Rome, where he just finished working on Pieta. They come back to Florence at a time, when commission on Duccio Stone is an This story begins with two artists returning to Florence. Leonardo da Vinci is returning from Milan, where he worked on designing a horse sculpture - the largest equestrian statue in the world, which was supposed to be cast in iron, but the clay model was destroyed by French soldiers invading Milan. Leonardo was forced to flee Milan. Michelangelo Buonarroti is returning from Rome, where he just finished working on Pieta. They come back to Florence at a time, when commission on Duccio Stone is announced. “The Duccio Stone was arguably the most famous block of marble in all of history. (…) once complete, it would be the tallest sculpture carved out of a single block since the ancients.” Leonardo is 50 years old and already famous. Michelangelo is in his mid 20s and trying to make a name for himself. But to his advantage he is a skilled sculptor, who just finished carving Pieta in Rome and he will cost Florence much less than more demanding Leonardo as it’s due his status. Michelangelo wins the commission and starts working on creating the famous sculpture of David. Leonardo during this time works on creating Mona Lisa. This four year period 1501-1505, a master time in Renaissance period, where two master art creations are happening should bring a masterful story. Unfortunately, the author picks a low angle, focusing on rivalry between those two artists to a point that it’s very distasteful and overshadows such amazing time period in history. “Buonarroti,” Leonardo said. “Here’s a tale for you to ponder. An ass fell asleep on a frozen lake, but its body heat melted the ice, so that ass awoke in cold, unwanted bath.” The writing itself leaves a lot to wish. The historical facts are stated and a fictional story is patched between those facts. The prose is simple. This book had such a potential. The author picked a fantastic time period, short and masterful. But it is very sad what she created out of this.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Crystal King

    The world has long been in love with Da Vinci and with Michelangelo but rarely do we hear of the rivalry they had with each other. In Oil and Marble, Storey weaves a meticulously researched tale as complicated and beautiful as the treasures they left behind. The reader easily finds themselves rooting for both men, each radically different than the other, both flawed in their own ways, full of ego and incredible talent. If you love history and love art, take a trip back to the height of the Itali The world has long been in love with Da Vinci and with Michelangelo but rarely do we hear of the rivalry they had with each other. In Oil and Marble, Storey weaves a meticulously researched tale as complicated and beautiful as the treasures they left behind. The reader easily finds themselves rooting for both men, each radically different than the other, both flawed in their own ways, full of ego and incredible talent. If you love history and love art, take a trip back to the height of the Italian Renaissance and immerse yourself in the world that Storey has built. If you are like me, you'll end up staying up long after your bedtime to reach the end!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Storey

    I still think it's funny that I get to review my own books on Goodreads! I mean I HAVE read it, but I can't possibly be objective or unbiased about it. I did thoroughly enjoy reading the quotes people pulled from it, and I've been like, "Whoa! I wrote that! And someone else copied it down. Weird." So while I can't really speak to what it might be like to read this book for the first time, what I can say is that WRITING this novel was the absolute GREATEST joy of my little life... I mean, I got t I still think it's funny that I get to review my own books on Goodreads! I mean I HAVE read it, but I can't possibly be objective or unbiased about it. I did thoroughly enjoy reading the quotes people pulled from it, and I've been like, "Whoa! I wrote that! And someone else copied it down. Weird." So while I can't really speak to what it might be like to read this book for the first time, what I can say is that WRITING this novel was the absolute GREATEST joy of my little life... I mean, I got to spend years swimming around in the world of Michelangelo versus Leonardo in Renaissance Florence, and I got to be in the room while Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo carved the David; how lucky am I?????

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I enjoyed immersing myself in the world of the renaissance and Italian politics, one forgets how many absolutely fantastic artists, politicians and rogues populated this time period and place. I knew this animosity or rivalry between Leonardo & Michelangelo existed but was put off by how it was portrayed here. Yes Leonardo was a bon vivant and Michelangelo more of an ascetic. Leonardo was an established artist and Michelangelo was trying to make his mark. But the childish characterizations and a I enjoyed immersing myself in the world of the renaissance and Italian politics, one forgets how many absolutely fantastic artists, politicians and rogues populated this time period and place. I knew this animosity or rivalry between Leonardo & Michelangelo existed but was put off by how it was portrayed here. Yes Leonardo was a bon vivant and Michelangelo more of an ascetic. Leonardo was an established artist and Michelangelo was trying to make his mark. But the childish characterizations and actions of the two were a bit too much for me. Banal dialogue also was peppered throughout the novel. Storey felt that Leonardo because of his scientific bent, lacked a passion or warmth in his art until the famous Mona Lisa painting ; and Michelangelo driven intensity had more emotion emanating from his work. When you see these artists' work in person, I defy you to not be moved by either artists' work. But again, the historical details wonderful. What did the two have in common was the lack of support by their families, and how hard it was to make it (and still is) as an artist. It is all consuming and one may or may not reap the rewards of artistic genius in one's own lifetime. I appreciated the author's note at the end; clarifying some artistic liberties in the writing and some historical truths.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gail Baugniet

    Hard to resist a story pitting two artistic, egotistical giants against one another, especially with the vivid backdrop of Florence. My expectations of a good storyline were low as I was willing to settle for the pleasure of merely spending time in the company of Leonardo and Michaelangelo. To my pleasant surprise, Stephanie Storey did extensive research to make her novel tension-filled, realistic, and enlightening. By the final pages, these accomplished artists had truly come alive for me. This Hard to resist a story pitting two artistic, egotistical giants against one another, especially with the vivid backdrop of Florence. My expectations of a good storyline were low as I was willing to settle for the pleasure of merely spending time in the company of Leonardo and Michaelangelo. To my pleasant surprise, Stephanie Storey did extensive research to make her novel tension-filled, realistic, and enlightening. By the final pages, these accomplished artists had truly come alive for me. This tale - part truth, part fiction - offers inspiration for all who aim to accomplish their dreams, illustrating that success is first a personal reality.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Gann

    This book will inspire you to read non-fiction history about Leonardo and Michelangelo. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Adelizzi, Jr.

    I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway. As stated above, I won Stephanie Storey’s Oil and Marble on GoodReads, and truth be told, had I not won this book on GoodReads I don’t know if I would have been inclined to purchase it. What gives me pause is my fear that a work of historical fiction involving great artists would easily devolve into a Psychology 101 clown-car of silly theories about motivations and justifications of the artists’ actions and themes, thereby marring their work like a botched I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway. As stated above, I won Stephanie Storey’s Oil and Marble on GoodReads, and truth be told, had I not won this book on GoodReads I don’t know if I would have been inclined to purchase it. What gives me pause is my fear that a work of historical fiction involving great artists would easily devolve into a Psychology 101 clown-car of silly theories about motivations and justifications of the artists’ actions and themes, thereby marring their work like a botched restoration attempt. However, from the outset signs were good that my fears were misplaced. The title itself hints at an emphasis on the art. Storey could have easily garnered more visibility for her work by giving it a title which capitalized on the fame and notoriety of the two artists, something like Michelangelo and Leonardo: Fire in Firenze. But no, thankfully, she chose instead Oil and Marble, thereby serving notice that this work was going to be ultimately about the art. Even the opening sentence of her novel serves to make that clear, taking us to Leonardo as he obsesses over his already crumbling masterpiece, “The Last Supper.” That is not to say Storey has ignored or should have ignored the personalities of the artists. This is historical fiction after all, and what fiction would be worth its salt without setting, plot, intrigue, confrontation, and denouement? Storey provides all those things in an engaging manner which had me staying up much later on work nights than I really should have. I particularly enjoyed how she thoroughly developed setting in both time and place by describing the physical landscape, specifics of daily life, as well as eye-opening details of the historical setting, details which should have been obvious to me from my readings of biographies of the artists as well as other historical accounts with which I am familiar. Some relevant details which stick in my mind include her mention of a German clock at Leonardo’s bedside, the impact of the relatively recent invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, remembrances of the bonfire of the vanities giving the artists and/or officials of the time pause over their actual freedom of expression, and personal interactions with other well-known figures of that time (for example Machiavelli). There were many points throughout this Storey book where I found myself asking, “Did that really happen?” I did pull out those previously-read biographies to try to do a sort of mini-refresher, my memory not being what it used to be, to try to confirm or refute veracity. However, Storey herself readily admits in her Author’s Note that she has taken “artistic license to tell the story of these two characters who have lived in my imagination for over two decades.” I do not see that liberty as a fault in any way whatsoever. Honestly, expecting to build a historically accurate knowledge-base by reading historical fiction would be like expecting to build an accurate current events knowledge-base by watching Access Hollywood; I read historical fiction for the fiction, not the history. Is my imagination adorned with a Michelangelo and a Leonardo identical to those of Storey? Not at all. Going into this book my imagination bore the footprints of an irascible, off-putting Michelangelo and a dignified, refined, faultless Leonardo whose only shortcoming was his tendency to leave things unfinished, a trait Storey nicely attempts to explain; obviously when it came to their characters I was inclined to favor Leonardo. However, Storey had me appreciating a different interpretation of the two men, adding depth to her interpretation towards the end by having each artist’s personality practically morph into the personality of his arch rival – the refined and outwardly confident Leonardo taking on the unkempt and self-doubting traits of Michelangelo, the dirty, doubting Michelangelo cleaning himself up and displaying a new-found self-confidence (at least temporarily). Look at me, on the verge of contradicting the premise with which I opened this review – that stories about great artists are best served by focusing more on the art than the artist. Enough about the two artists. Yes, Storey has succeeded in creating an interesting fictional account of the two men and their rivalry. But Storey’s most appreciated accomplishment, for me, is the manner in which she often and ultimately brings her account back to the art. At the end of her riveting tale her Michelangelo and her Leonardo each come to appreciate the other’s artistic genius. Storey succeeds in blending the lives and the art of these two great artists in an extremely entertaining manner which ultimately preserves the primacy of their art. I know I started by saying I would not have purchased this book if I hadn’t won it on GoodReads, so I hope I’m not being disingenuous now when I recommend you not wait to win this book on GoodReads – go buy it; I don’t think you will be disappointed.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Skoog

    “Think … the greater danger for most of us is not in aiming too high and falling short, but in aiming too low and hitting the mark.” As a fanatic of both books and art, I couldn´t really imagine a book more fitting than this one. Oil and Marble is a novel about two of the great masters; Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. From 1501 – 1505 both of these great artists lived in Florence, a city that has homed and inspired (and still does!) many artists. In the book, we even get mentio “Think … the greater danger for most of us is not in aiming too high and falling short, but in aiming too low and hitting the mark.” As a fanatic of both books and art, I couldn´t really imagine a book more fitting than this one. Oil and Marble is a novel about two of the great masters; Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. From 1501 – 1505 both of these great artists lived in Florence, a city that has homed and inspired (and still does!) many artists. In the book, we even get mentions of many other artists and having Botticelli play a part in the book makes art nerds like me just that bit more excited. But, not only are these artists living in the same city, they are also battling. Leonardo is already an established and well-known maestro while Michelangelo is still a young artist in his twenties and he is trying to make a name for himself, make people remember him. In the beginning, they start out in different places, Leonardo is in Milan showing his famous Last Supper and Michelangelo in Rome where he has just finished his Pietá. Their stories work around each other throughout the whole book, showing their own perspectives as they both strive for greatness. But, the real battle starts when the Duccio Stone, a great slab of marble from Carrera deemed unworkable, is up for grabs. Leonardo is first suggested for the project but when Michelangelo returns home in time for the decision to be made, he is determined the stone is his. While just seeing and imagining how the great works of Mona Lisa and David were made was fascinating, I also really enjoyed how different their chapters were. Michelangelo´s chapters are focused and dedicated and you can feel how obsessed he is with his sculpting. Meanwhile, Leonardo´s chapters are more sporadic, he is constantly being inspired by so many things and he constructs machines and he wants to fly and he is always sketching and there is so much going on. I think to see that contrast in their artistry really added to the whole story and made it more interesting. If there is anything I can say that would have made it better for me, is making me connect more with Leonardo and Michelangelo. They both have connections and friends and everything to establish their characters but for some reason, they still felt a little detached for me sometimes. I think a big reason for this was the book being written from a 3rd person perspective rather than a 1st person, where you truly would have seen it through their eyes. Other than that, I loved this book. It´s exciting, it´s fascinating, the writing is beautiful and it´s actually quite educating! Storey spent 20 years (!) of research that has gone into this book and you can really tell she has. While it´s still fiction, an incredible amount of everything the book recounts is actually true. For anyone who is interested in history, art or just a well-written story about rivalry and passion for the craft, I highly recommend you check this out. Pick up this little 300-page beauty and be inspired by Michelangelo´s absolute dedication to David or Leonardo´s love and fascination with flying and with his Lisa. 4,5/5 stars

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eavan

    Ugh. I should have known when the phrase "egg-based tempera" showed up that I was dealing with an author who either thought her readers were idiots—or didn't know how to write. Unfortunately, it turned out to be both. Stephanie Storey knows her history, there's no doubt about it. Interesting tidbits grace scenes (making it almost worthwhile to finish in order to learn something a bit esoteric to enamor at your next dinner party), but her attempt to novelize the sensational in the vibrant, nail-bit Ugh. I should have known when the phrase "egg-based tempera" showed up that I was dealing with an author who either thought her readers were idiots—or didn't know how to write. Unfortunately, it turned out to be both. Stephanie Storey knows her history, there's no doubt about it. Interesting tidbits grace scenes (making it almost worthwhile to finish in order to learn something a bit esoteric to enamor at your next dinner party), but her attempt to novelize the sensational in the vibrant, nail-biting world of 16th century Italy falls flat. The characters were stilted, the prose neophyte, and stakes shallow. When working with historical figures where people pretty much know the arc of their lives, an author has an especially difficult time convincing readers of "stakes", and when you don't have the prose or characters to match, it's boring. Another issue I had with the novel was the modernity of the characters. Speech is almost unaffected, a sort of quasi-formal dialogue that I guess is supposed to impress the readers into the 16th century, but was obviously lazy. The word "pyrotechnics" somehow got into the final draft, (which took me 3 seconds to look up was a 19th-century invention) and just illustrated to me how little Storey cared to make this more authentic than it had to be. There just didn't seem to be an attempt at making it more historically accurate than the dressed-up scenes Storey felt either was comfortable with or just enough to fool lazy readers. It reminded me of the BBC Musketeers adaptation and the like, with scenes moving to the next without much consequence, a story first and foremost without much "art" to the process of novel writing. I'd be hard-pressed to find even one theme. It's two stars because the novel had potential. It seemed incredibly accurate and wasn't head-hitting-the-wall bad, but it was just so generic it left me insulted. It felt lazy and amateurish, and I can only hope Storey writes some sort of art history non-fiction. I'd read that over a novel any day.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Horror Bookworm Reviews

    Oil and Marble by Stephanie Storey Oil and Marble is a magnificent story brimming with an all-star cast of world famous artists conducted by the talent of author Stephanie Storey. The novel centers around two of the most extraordinarily relevant talents in history, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. As chapters are cleverly divided into Leonardo and Michelangelo, the reader visits Florence and delves into the triumphs and tragedies that are guided by a strong commitment to faith and art by both t Oil and Marble by Stephanie Storey Oil and Marble is a magnificent story brimming with an all-star cast of world famous artists conducted by the talent of author Stephanie Storey. The novel centers around two of the most extraordinarily relevant talents in history, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. As chapters are cleverly divided into Leonardo and Michelangelo, the reader visits Florence and delves into the triumphs and tragedies that are guided by a strong commitment to faith and art by both these men. Stephanie Storey has succeeded at weaving these two legends together as well as creating an intriguing unforgettable classic piece of historical fiction.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

    My friend calls herself a history snob and suggest I may be one, too. But it's not that I was looking for pure history here. It is supposed to be imaginative fiction. The sensibilities were so modern, though, and, at least to the point I gave up, the characters weren't people I could imagine as the historical characters. That may just be my own lack of imagination. And a little bit of history snobbery? My friend calls herself a history snob and suggest I may be one, too. But it's not that I was looking for pure history here. It is supposed to be imaginative fiction. The sensibilities were so modern, though, and, at least to the point I gave up, the characters weren't people I could imagine as the historical characters. That may just be my own lack of imagination. And a little bit of history snobbery?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Beth Sponzilli

    I visited Florence last year so all the locations and names were still fresh in my mind. Leonardo di Vinci and Michelangelo both lived in Florence in the years of 1501-1505. During this time they both created two different now famous works of art, The Mona Lisa and The David. They were rivals of of a sort and their dedication motivated each other. A great historical fiction story of a time in Italy during war and renaissance. Her next book is focused on Raphael (and Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel I visited Florence last year so all the locations and names were still fresh in my mind. Leonardo di Vinci and Michelangelo both lived in Florence in the years of 1501-1505. During this time they both created two different now famous works of art, The Mona Lisa and The David. They were rivals of of a sort and their dedication motivated each other. A great historical fiction story of a time in Italy during war and renaissance. Her next book is focused on Raphael (and Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel ceiling). I will read that too!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Scott Wilson

    I really enjoyed this look at the rivalry between two of the all time great artists as imagined in Florence in 1501-1505. Like other historical fiction this is based on many interesting known pieces of history about the artists and Florence at the time and the author takes some literary license to fill in the gaps. I'm a novice when it comes to art although I have seen the Mona Lisa in the Louvre but that did not deter from my enjoyment of this book at all. My favorite books that take place in a I really enjoyed this look at the rivalry between two of the all time great artists as imagined in Florence in 1501-1505. Like other historical fiction this is based on many interesting known pieces of history about the artists and Florence at the time and the author takes some literary license to fill in the gaps. I'm a novice when it comes to art although I have seen the Mona Lisa in the Louvre but that did not deter from my enjoyment of this book at all. My favorite books that take place in a different time are the books that really make me feel like I was there and Stephanie Storey was able to do that. Michelangelo and Leonardo are fascinating and incredibly talented men and we are all lucky they shared their art with us. I loved my brief time in Florence and I look forward to Stephanie's new book coming out next Spring.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Connie Hall

    Oil and Marble is a very entertaining read! If you love these two pieces of art - David and Mona Lisa - you will enjoy it even more. The only reason I didn't go with 5 stars is because some of her embellishments are a little unbelievable; but the main parts - the artists working and their rivalry - are well done and very moving. Because I am planning to be in Florence this March, it was especially fun to read about this history. Oil and Marble is a very entertaining read! If you love these two pieces of art - David and Mona Lisa - you will enjoy it even more. The only reason I didn't go with 5 stars is because some of her embellishments are a little unbelievable; but the main parts - the artists working and their rivalry - are well done and very moving. Because I am planning to be in Florence this March, it was especially fun to read about this history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    This was interesting read about Michelangelo and Leonardo. I loved being transported to Florence and how these two Masterpieces were created. I did not love the writing. I felt it was very immature with the constant rivalry between the two artists. There had to be more to this story. It gave me doubts as to what was true and what was fictional. Overall it is worth the read to get an understanding of the time and what these artists had to sacrifice to create their masterpieces.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne

    An intriguing account of two amazingly brilliant artists. Storey unveiled the possible thoughts and feelings that Leonardo and Michelangelo each might have experienced as they faced the pressures and conflict that existed between the two. She revealed the struggles each man experienced while trying to prove themselves of their talents. As with other books of this genre, I am motivated to research on my own to find out what is history and what is fiction. Enjoyed it immensely.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I thought the back stories of two of the most famous pieces of art was really interesting. Here is a list of all the art I googled while reading this book; (I know you want to know) The Last Super The Pieta Donatello's David Verrocchio's David Botticelli's La Primevera Botticelli's Birth of Venus Virgin of the Rocks by da Vinci Donatello's Judith and Holofernes Salvator Mundi by da Vinci Mona Lisa Michelangelo's David I thought the back stories of two of the most famous pieces of art was really interesting. Here is a list of all the art I googled while reading this book; (I know you want to know) The Last Super The Pieta Donatello's David Verrocchio's David Botticelli's La Primevera Botticelli's Birth of Venus Virgin of the Rocks by da Vinci Donatello's Judith and Holofernes Salvator Mundi by da Vinci Mona Lisa Michelangelo's David

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tim Tigner

    Speaking as an author who’s written a bestseller from Leonardo Da Vinci’s point of view, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Stephanie does a wonderful job of combing things most don’t know about the artists’ lives with the stories of the masterpieces we all love. You’ll learn a lot from Oil and Marble, and have difficulty putting it down. It’s the best book I’ve read all year, and likely to remain so. I listened to the audiobook, and will buy that version of her forthcoming Raphael novel as soon as Speaking as an author who’s written a bestseller from Leonardo Da Vinci’s point of view, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Stephanie does a wonderful job of combing things most don’t know about the artists’ lives with the stories of the masterpieces we all love. You’ll learn a lot from Oil and Marble, and have difficulty putting it down. It’s the best book I’ve read all year, and likely to remain so. I listened to the audiobook, and will buy that version of her forthcoming Raphael novel as soon as it becomes available. PS: this is from the heart. I don’t know Stephanie.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

    This was way too long, even a longer way too obvious and quite terribly written as well (I almost appreciate author's vocabulary of Italian curses, but they don't make up for for lack of style and numerous other mannerisms) The 2 stars result is for the topic, and historical accuracy - which does not make a novel though. This was way too long, even a longer way too obvious and quite terribly written as well (I almost appreciate author's vocabulary of Italian curses, but they don't make up for for lack of style and numerous other mannerisms) The 2 stars result is for the topic, and historical accuracy - which does not make a novel though.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I was so drawn to this story and yet I couldn't give it five stars. I think it's because I listened to it on audible and I didn't love the narrator. However the story was lovely! Maybe it's because I've pondered over both these masterpieces and she gave a perfect mix of fact and fiction. So many unanswered questions and she imagined a great story!!! I was so drawn to this story and yet I couldn't give it five stars. I think it's because I listened to it on audible and I didn't love the narrator. However the story was lovely! Maybe it's because I've pondered over both these masterpieces and she gave a perfect mix of fact and fiction. So many unanswered questions and she imagined a great story!!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    Excellent story I would like to believe that the creation of the Mona Lisa and of David occurred just as the author portrayed it. Wouldn't that be wonderful! Excellent story I would like to believe that the creation of the Mona Lisa and of David occurred just as the author portrayed it. Wouldn't that be wonderful!

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