The Ruby Ring
Recently, it was discovered that a ruby ring had been painted over in a nude portrait of Margherita Luti, the mistress of the great artist Raphael. From this premise, Haeger spins her tale of why this might have happened. Luti, a baker’s daughter in 1514 Rome, catches the eye of Raphael, who desires her to model for his perfect Madonna. At first Margherita doesn’t trust his intent, but then she agrees to pose for one painting only. A love affair develops, thrusting her into the politics that surround a painter overworked with commissions from Pope Leo and other powerful men in Rome. Cardinal Bibbiena, who has betrothed his beloved niece to Raphael, is incensed by this peasant girl’s place in his life. Raphael promises eternal love, along with a precious ruby ring, to Margherita, but his benefactors plot to separate them.
This lush, often overwritten novel carries the reader into the world of artists, through the streets of Renaissance Rome and into the Vatican. Though I found it uncomfortable that Margherita’s father encourages her to become a courtesan, and characters often “smile” their dialog, I still enjoyed the rich yet fast-paced story.