Author: John L’Heureux

ISBN: 978 1 93231506

Publisher: Astor+ Blue Editions

A story told in the present yet in the past as Luca Mattei now a man in his late sixties recounts his life while sitting within his confined surrounding, taking readers on his journeys, telling about his failures and triumphs as author John L’Heureux takes readers back to the 1400’s. Reliving the devastation and deaths caused by the Black Pest, his life as a Franciscan Monk and his journey to working as an apprentice with Donatello during the Renaissance period when art was beginning to change its direction, working in a bottega or workshop helped teach him his craft and where his life began for the second time. The time period is highly volatile the scenes so vividly depicted that readers can not only visualize, but hear, smell, taste and touch the sounds, the stench, the rot and the vileness of the places described as well as the infection, the decay and the corpses that lined the streets and the mass graves from the Black Pest. 

Placed by his natural father with a mercantile family who were dyers, Luca’s life was anything but normal for a young child. Chores, hard labor, standing many hours mixing the dyes, this young man at the age of 8 was treated with much cruelty by the people that were paid handsomely to care for him. When sent to live with the Franciscan Monks, Luca did his best to honor his vows, stay chaste and follow their way of life. But, a journey to the village and an encounter with Maria Sabina would change all that. Sometimes no matter how hard we try or in this case he tried, you cannot hide from who you are and what you really want.

Confessing to one of the senior Monks about his transgressions did not yield him absolution nor did he request it. Hoping to honor his vows he managed to stay away from temptation but in the end he could not and wound up with the Black Pest of Plague as a result of another encounter with a woman. The horrific lives of prostitutes, homosexuals and the wealth described of the Medici family plus the sickness and pestilence cannot detract from the art being created at the time. 

The author immerses readers inside the bottega of not only Donatello but also two other masters who trained and molded Luca. Feeling that he failed the Franciscan Brothers, his first two masters and had little talent for sculpting, painting and creating bronze, Luca finds his passion working for Donatello. You can smell the paint, see the sculptures being made, feel the pallets and experience what Luca does as he creates his art. Falling from the priesthood and succumbing to a woman’s wiles, will he find his path in the bottega or workshop of one of the greatest artisans of the time? One simples kiss, so potent would change the course and direction of our narrator’s life forever.

The author creates for the reader the challenges of becoming a sculptor, places the chisel within reach, the implements needed to create a wax figure and the passion and obsession of Donatello for perfection. Enter Cosmo de Medici, patron of the arts and the world changes, taxes on the rich are imposed and Luca’s brother, or the son of the dyers, Agnolo enters the bottega. 

So many during this time are accused and convicted of sodemy or rape. As one man meets a burning fate another would create more than just danger, jealousy and dissension within the world that Luca has come to embrace. Smart, conniving, cunning and comely, Agnolo manages to endear himself in more ways than one to Donatello and the other apprentices working in the bottega. Luca, his assistant would like nothing better than to have him disappear and not show up but when Donatello engages him to model, the master sculptor’s hidden desire for him comes through.

Leaving the first bottega of Cennino and then sent to work with the great master Ghiberti it becomes evident that casting, sanding and finishing were not his forte and finding him a place with Donatello the solution. With the aid of Michelozzo, Donatello’s chief assistant and several of his apprentices, Luca learned about other basket of money to be used when needed, learning the basic needs of the bottega and being assigned three designs for Cosimo de Medici. The years wore on and his relationship with Donatello changed, as did his position within his workshop. Told as he lingers away in his exiled prison, Luca recounts his marriage to Alessandra and his role as keeper of the commissions and books for Donatello and his true feelings about Agnolo and the hope that Donatello would be more to him than just his mentor. 

His marriage his question, losing two sons to the Black Pest, another whose activities caused him much embarrassment as his constant arrests for sodemy led him down the wrong path, Luca’s final fate and last twelve years remind readers of the political upheavals, betrayals, bribes, lies and loyalties that now at the end of his life he questions.

An ending a final confession that will surprise readers as Agnolo’s final actions and true agenda comes through. Just what does it cost this man and who finally rid the world of his lies, conniving and deceits? Donatello was a man of many shades, moods and behaviors that came through in all of the art work, paintings and sculptures described in this novel. 

Author John L’Heureux allows you inside the bottega of there great artisans, gives you all the tools needed to understand and learn the craft along with Luca and so many others and you just might become another Donatello too.

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