Fic­tion

The Gallery of Beauties

September 1, 2021

Venice, 1612. Two very dif­fer­ent women, a noto­ri­ous cour­te­san and a Tal­mu­dic schol­ar, are brought togeth­er by an artist when they pose for a Gallery of Beau­ties, form­ing a rela­tion­ship nei­ther of them anticipated.

Con­flict­ed about her past, Bel­ladon­na finds her­self drawn to Diana, the rabbi’s wid­owed daugh­ter, and has ambi­tions for her future, but only if Diana will dis­card her ori­gins and her tra­di­tions. While Diana is torn by inde­ci­sion, Bel­ladon­na feels threat­ened, as one by one, the sub­jects of the por­traits are poi­soned. The two women must rely on their wits and each oth­er to avoid becom­ing the next vic­tims, as they con­front the pow­er­ful men who seek to con­trol them and Venice.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Nina Wachsman

  1. What do you think led Diana to over­come her fears and prag­ma­tism to go to the artist’s stu­dio to be paint­ed for the Gallery of Beauties?
  2. Do you think the romance is real between Diana and Mat­tia the artist, do you think Diana is real­ly attract­ed to him but afraid to admit it? Do you think the attrac­tion between them is enough to over­come the taboos and dan­ger of such an alliance that could make it viable?
  3. What struck you the most about the rela­tion­ship between Diana and her father? Do you think she could turn her back on her father to take advan­tage of all the oppor­tu­ni­ties offered her out­side of the Ghetto?
  4. Despite Belladonna’s ambi­tions for her, how do you think she feels about Diana’s refusal to leave the Ghet­to? Does she respect it, or does she think its out­dat­ed? How can you tell?
  5. What do you think insti­gat­ed Arundel’s com­mis­sion for the Gallery of Beau­ties? Did it seem impromp­tu or ful­ly planned?
  6. What do you think is dri­ving Morosini’s inter­est in Diana?