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Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne

Amedeo Modigliani, embittered and unrecognized genius, dies of meningitis on a cold January day in Montparnasse in 1920. Jeanne Hébuterne, his young wife and muse, follows 48 hours later, falling backwards through a window. Now a ghost, Jeanne drifts about the studio she shared with Modigliani—for she was not only his favorite model, but also an artist whose works were later shut away from public view after her demise. Enraged, she watches as her belongings are removed from the studio and her identity as an artist seemingly effaced for posterity, carried off in a suitcase by her brother. She then sets off to rejoin Modigliani in the underworld. Thus begins Loving Modigliani, retelling the story of Jeanne Hébuterne’s fate as a woman and an artist through three timelines and three precious objects stolen from the studio: a notebook, a bangle, and a self-portrait of Jeanne depicted together with Modi and their daughter. Decades later, an art history student will discover Jeanne’s diary and rescue her artwork from oblivion, after a search leading from Paris to Nice, Rome, and Venice, where Jeanne’s own quest will find its joyful reward.

Video trailer for Loving Modigliani

Author: Linda Lappin
Paperback : 344 pages
ISBN-10 : 1947175300
ISBN-13 : 978-1947175303

About the Author

Linda Lappin is the prize-winning author of four novels: The Etruscan (Wynkin deWorde, 2004), Katherine’s Wish (Wordcraft, 2008), Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery (Pleasureboat Studio, 2013), and Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne (Serving House Books, 2020). Signatures in Stone was the overall winner of the Daphne DuMaurier prize for best mystery novel of 2013. She is also the author of The Soul of Place: Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci (Travelers Tales, 2015), which won a Nautilus Award in the category of creativity in 2015. A former Fulbright scholar to Italy, she has lived mainly in Rome for over thirty years.

What a story Linda Lappin has to tell in the short life and long legend of Amedeo Modigliani, compulsive seducer, dedicated decadent and artist whose vision, like El Greco’s, seemed to warp the very air. But it’s the verve and authority with which Lappin centers her story on the parallel life (and afterlife) of Jeanne Hébuterne, artist and Modigliani’s model and lover, that amplifies the achievement of this scintillating tale, which is also a love story, a ghost story and a treasure hunt through the decades for a lost masterpiece. Through Jeanne’s female gaze the great tapestry of Paris and its fervid art scene is rendered with twice the depth of field and emotional color. The result is a novel of high originality, page-turning pace and a poetic precision so impeccably deployed that the book unfolds like a living, breathing, 3-D spectacle in the reader’s mind.

— Don Wallace, author of The French House

What is there of Jeanne Hébuterne that truly survives? Does her legacy exist in print, in rumor, in idle or self-interested speculation, in a handful of inherited objects, in artworks of dubious provenance, or in occasional incomplete exhibitions? Loving Modigliani continues the work Linda Lappin began in her novel about Katherine Mansfield, Katherine’s Wish, extending the inquiry into the life of another marginalized woman artist of the Modernist era. This time the scenery is Paris, Montparnasse, and various places in Venice, Rome, and the Côte d’Azur, and the subject is Jeanne, the common-law wife and muse of Modigliani, whose own talent has been ignored and reputation betrayed and mishandled for over the past hundred years. Thoughtfully and with acute observation and imagination, Lappin employs a variety of genres, styles, and subject matters—ghost story, mystery, historical detail, private journal, academic inquiry, and curatorial malfeasance—to recover what there is of Jeanne that we can possibly know. These depictions, along with ambulatory evocations of our favorite city, give us an opportunity to speculate on who in fact she might have been.

—Thomas Wilhelmus

Linda Lappin’s Loving Modigliani is itself a declaration of love, for Jeanne Hébuterne, Modigliani’s model and common-law wife, as well as a notable painter in her own right, whose suicide at twenty-one is the point of departure for a thrilling trans-twentieth-century fantasy. Ghost story, art-historical mystery, purgatorial character study, and living map of Montparnasse, Loving Modigliani imbues fact and counterfact with the forms, colors, and textures of classical poetry as Modigliani imbues painting with the qualities of sculpture—towards a higher vision, a higher compassion, a refined appreciation for this world and for the others it obscures. A tour de force and wild ride.

— James Wallenstein, author of The Arriviste

Ambitious…courageous…compelling…unique. The atmosphere in Loving Modigliani is so vivid and imaginative, the characters incredibly rich.

— Miriam Polli, author of In a Vertigo of Silence

"I admire [Serving House Books] for the quality work they’re putting out plus the notable writers they’re publishing."

Jack Smith, The Writer Magazine