The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel

Dominic Smith

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0374106681

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"Written in prose so clear that we absorb its images as if by mind meld, "The Last Painting" is gorgeous storytelling: wry, playful, and utterly alive, with an almost tactile awareness of the emotional contours of the human heart. Vividly detailed, acutely sensitive to stratifications of gender and class, it's fiction that keeps you up at night ― first because you're barreling through the book, then because you've slowed your pace to a crawl, savoring the suspense." ―Boston Globe

  • A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
  • A New York Times Bestseller

Amsterdam, 1631: Sara de Vos becomes the first woman to be admitted as a master painter to the city's Guild of St. Luke. Though women do not paint landscapes (they are generally restricted to indoor subjects), a wintry outdoor scene haunts Sara: She cannot shake the image of a young girl from a nearby village, standing alone beside a silver birch at dusk, staring out at a group of skaters on the frozen river below. Defying the expectations of her time, she decides to paint it.
New York City, 1957: The only known surviving work of Sara de Vos, At the Edge of a Wood, hangs in the bedroom of a wealthy Manhattan lawyer, Marty de Groot, a descendant of the original owner. It is a beautiful but comfortless landscape. The lawyer's marriage is prominent but comfortless, too. When a struggling art history grad student, Ellie Shipley, agrees to forge the painting for a dubious art dealer, she finds herself entangled with its owner in ways no one could predict.
Sydney, 2000: Now a celebrated art historian and curator, Ellie Shipley is mounting an exhibition in her field of specialization: female painters of the Dutch Golden Age. When it becomes apparent that both the original At the Edge of a Wood and her forgery are en route to her museum, the life she has carefully constructed threatens to unravel entirely and irrevocably.

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Dutch courier knows. Usually she leaves her car in the faculty parking lot and takes the train to the St. James station for the short walk through the Domain, but today she bustles out onto King Street to find a taxi. The city streets have taken on a mineral sheen after a downpour and everything smells of iron. While she waits for a cab heading in the right direction she reminds herself to take note of the light, the flush of pink over in the west. She’s forever telling her students to notice

silver-plated handle. Marty takes it from him and cuts through the twine. He pulls back a flap of the thick blanket to reveal a bed of green felt. “Is that billiard cloth?” Max asks. “Good eye. I had to get the baize on mine replaced so I kept the old one for just such an occasion.” “Genius idea.” Marty pulls back the green felt and exposes the face of the painting to the room. She’s in perfect condition, he thinks. Kept in a narrow temperature range except for the taxi rides to and from

poisoned. He wants to shift the conversation back to banter, but he knows it’s too late. “Let me get you into a taxi,” he says. “Will you take the pizza?” She doesn’t answer but takes the box. They walk a few streets over from the expressway and he flags down a taxi. His father used to carry a doorman’s whistle in his vest pocket, just for hailing cabs, and he wonders where that thing ended up. It might be resting at the bottom of a drawer in the ship captain’s desk. When the cab pulls up he

second later, “Or if.” He backs away far enough to put her into focus. “Me too.” On a whim, Ellie lowers herself down into the tub, her hands along the smooth edge. She lies back, fully clothed, the satin lining of her coat a shock of blue against the white enamel. She looks up at the stenciled tin ceiling, then out the window, and says, “You could do worse than getting old with a big tub at your disposal. When I was a kid, to escape the household, I used to read in the bathtub for hours. The

with folded arms. He lifts one leg and gingerly takes off his shoe and sock with a sigh. His bloodied heel looks as if it’s been grated and she can’t help wincing. He says, “I can’t get the Band-Aid to stick.” It’s the voice of a child, she thinks, plaintive and willful. She ducks out of the office and fetches a few paper towels from the packers’ break kitchen. When she comes back she hands them to him and digs through the first-aid kit for some antibiotic gel. After a few minutes of watching

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