Review: Da Vinci's Tiger by L.M. Elliott

Da Vinci's Tiger by L.M. Elliott
Publication date: Nov 10, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Category: Young Adult - Historical Fiction
Source: Received via Netgalley from publisher (Thanks!)
Summary: Beautiful and witty, Ginevra de’ Benci longs to take part in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence. But as the daughter of a wealthy family in a society dictated by men, she is trapped in an arranged marriage, expected to limit her creativity to domestic duties. Her poetry reveals her deepest feelings, and she aches to share her work, to meet painters and sculptors, and to find love. When the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, arrives, he introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers—exactly what she has yearned for. She is instantly attracted Bernardo, yet Ginevra remains conflicted about his attentions. Choosing her as his Platonic muse, Bembo commissions a portrait by young Leonardo da Vinci and posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them. In an enthralling world of art, feasts, and jousts, she faces many temptations to discover her voice, artistic companionship, and a love that defies categorization. (

The good
Da Vinci’s Tiger was a bite-sized history lesson that gave readers a look into the time of Leonardo da Vinci and more importantly, into the role of women in Renaissance Florence. Through the eyes of young and intelligent Ginevra de’ Benci, we learn the few options they hold and her choice to make herself heard. At heart, she’s a poet, creative and just someone who loves learning and literature. But a woman in her position — in other words, wealthy — is instead forced into a loveless arranged marriage where she is basically an object to be seen and not heard. Until, select individuals really start to take notice of her, specifically a Venetian ambassador named Bernardo Bembro.

Ginevra’s budding relationship with Bernardo was one of the most fascinating parts of the story because through it, I learned about Platonic muses. During that time, women could become these “platonic” loves to prestigious men, who in turn commemorated the love they felt by employing patrons and artists to immortalize these women’s beauty through art and poetry. Which is how Ginevra gets to know Leonardo da Vinci, since he is commissioned to paint her portrait. This was definitely the other interesting part. While Ginevra is certainly attracted and dazzled by Bernardo, it’s with Leonardo that she truly finds an intellectual connection. He doesn’t treat her as merely an object. They discuss art and literature and try to make a statement with her portrait. Through their interactions (and even the conversations with Bernardo), we learn more and more of the fierce woman Ginevra often has to stifle.

(Minor) reservations
The book goes by very quickly, which surprised me because not a lot actually happens? A lot of the struggle is internal as Ginevra decides who she wants to be and what she wants to mean to the different men in her life (husband, Bernardo and Leonardo). It’s a surprisingly quiet novel but I felt like it only touched the surface of this character and the time period. I would’ve loved to see it delve deeper.

Do I recommend?
If you love art history (I was a big fan of my art appreciation class in college) and are in the mood for a quick read, I would recommend checking this out.

Collaborative feature with Alexa! 

What is your favorite Leonardo da Vinci artwork?
I was between three different paintings but I decided that the one I wanted to share today as my favorite is: Head of a Woman (also known as La Scapigliata). I think there's something about the expression on her face that he manages to capture so beautifully.

1 comment

  1. Even though it's mostly an internal struggle that's spotlighted in this book, I enjoyed DA VINCI'S TIGER. It's definitely different fare for me, which I liked!


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