It’s a Mystery: The Forgery of Venus, by Michael Gruber

The Forgery of Venus

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Forgery of Venus tells the story, in his own words, of artist Chaz Wilmot, one of the greatest talents of his (our) time. The reasons no one knows it is that he refuses to sell out to the shallow demands of the current art world. Chaz wants to paint like Vermeer, Caravaggio, or, in this case, Velasquez. A pair of art dealers, recognizing this, lure him into creating a forgery, one so good that no one will believe it’s not a 17th original. Chaz justifies his choice because of his need to raise money for his dying son’s medical treatments. He also participates in a medical drug trial, studying the effects of hallucinogens on creativity. In Chaz’s case, the effects are profound.

Many intriguing things happen to Chaz. Unfortunately, he’s entirely self-absorbed, his personality making it difficult to actually care what happens. For the most part, Forgery is a lengthy sort of rant told by a narcissist, quite tedious in spite of the presence of some well delineated characters who are all more interesting than Chaz. There’s some good detail about the world of art theives and forgers, and a few glimpses of the life of the 17th century court artist, but it’s not enough to pull this book out of the ranks of the ordinary.

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