"Ludovico Sforza, the arrogant Duke of Milan, thought he could live with both his wife and mistress. For over a year and a half he managed to get away with it, until he made a grave mistake: he gave both the same dress. Beatrice d'Este could put up with a mistress and her son being raised at court, but not with receiving the same dress."
Titian’s beautiful Danae was actually Cardinal Farnese’s favourite courtesan; the Venus in the mirror was Velázquez’s mistress and the mother of his only son. And who was the mysterious bearded lady in Spagnoletto’s paintings? History has condemned to anonymity so many people who lead fascinating lives. Today we’d deem them worthy of the tabloids. But art has also immortalised the lives of criminals and those who lived on the margins of society. That is the case of The Neighbour, director Theo Van Gogh’s murderous neighbour, who ended up on the front pages of the world’s newspapers and was portrayed by Marlene Dumas; or George Dyer, who met Bacon in a gay club in Soho and became his lover. Appearances are deceptive but Francesca Bonazzoli and Michele Robecchi have revealed many secrets, surprising their readers at every turn. Along with the delightful collection of true stories, the book delivers an important reflection on the “unmasking” of the relationship between an artist and his models: a relationship where the former is usually in charge, but over the centuries has evolved to the denial of the portrait itself, with words and sounds substituting faces.