The Vanishing Point
This fictionalized biography recounts a year in the life of Renaissance painter Lavinia Fontana. Teenager Vini is an only child, her mother having suffered multiple miscarriages. Desperate to fulfill her desire to paint, Vini conspires with her friend, Paolo, to bring her work to her father’s notice. Prospero Fontana is thrilled to find his daughter has both the soul and the talent of an artist and welcomes her to his studio. But all is not well in the Fontana household. Lavinia falls victim to a childhood disease and must live with the possibility she will never see again, while her mother’s latest pregnancy leads to tragedy.
With careful research and a deft hand, Ms. Hawes convincingly recreates the Renaissance period, full of colour, noise and politics. Similarly her characters, especially Vini and her father, leap from the page and grab our attention. The story starts slowly, but picks up speed about halfway through as the various plot threads, including a romance between Vini and Paolo, come together. My one real quibble was the author’s use of present tense, which I found rather distracting. Still, as an introduction to art and history, few parents could go wrong buying this for their teens.