Instarad Summary of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
Four out of five stars
Although there some historically accurate aspects to this novel, the events and individuals are all fictitious. The two main characters are wealthy Marty de Groot, a man that owns the only known surviving painting by seventeenth-century Dutch artist Sara de Vos and Ellie Shipley a student pursuing a PhD in art history at Columbia.
Marty realizes that his de Vos painting has been replaced by a clever forgery and he is able to determine that Shipley is the forger. Marty exacts a specific form of revenge on Shipley, he befriends her only to coldly abandon her. However, he does not expose her as an art forger. Decades later, Marty tries to make some form of restitution for what he did, by giving Shipley control over the forgery. Shipley is now a professor of art and the revelation that she once forged a painting will destroy her career.
As is explained in this summary, this is a story about life mistakes and attempts to recover from them. It is also a bit of a historical retrospective when the life of the artist Sara de Vos is examined. Abandoned by her debt-ridden husband, Sara is forced to find a way to make a living and she turns to painting. At that time, single women had few options for income and being an artist was generally not one of them.
Since so much of the plot is based on the art world, from the collectors to the potentially lucrative world of forgery to the historical background of the artists, it is clear from this summary that this is not a novel that will appeal to a wide audience. This is summarized by the passage in the “themes” section of the summary.
“The very different ways in which Marty and Ellie are affected by their encounter in 1957 reveal how class position determines so much about a person’s fate, especially in the art world.”
If you are interested in this specific niche of the world, then this is a novel that you may enjoy. People will little to no interest in the art world will be convinced by this summary to avoid the book.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.