Robin Maxwell's articles @ Huffington Post
Signora da Vinci JANE Augie Appleby
What is "The Shadow Renaissance?"

Portrait of Lorenzo the Magnificent de' Medici
When most people think of the Italian Renaissance, it is the art, the masterpieces of painting, sculpture and architecture that come to mind - Boticelli's "Birth of Venus," Michelangelo's "David," Florence 's Cathedral, the Baptisery doors. But in my mind, these glories of human culture pale in comparison to the men and women who birthed the philosophies that lay at the heart of the Renaissance.

Clandestine meetings of Lorenzo de Medici's PLATONIC ACADEDMY OF FLORENCE are the setting for several pivotal scenes in Signora da Vinci. The membership (including, in my imaginings, Leonardo's mother) boasted the best and brightest minds of the day. It was here in the palazzos and villas of the Medici - as much as in the artists' studios - that the culture-shattering Italian Renaissance was truly born.

Platonic Academy of Florence

The philosophers Plato and Hermes Trismegistus were revered, while the texts of the ancient Greeks, Egyptian magic, the occult, alchemy and astrology were studied and fiercely argued. The academy esteemed conscious inquiry into knowledge and reality. Spiritual enlightenment was their desired goal. Today we are discovering the esoteric meaning behind many iconic works of art that resulted from those philosophies - as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code so perfectly illustrated.

A heretic burning at the stake in Florence
Portrait of Savonarola

While all the members of the Platonic Academy were outwardly devout Catholics (some were even clergymen) the beliefs of this secretive "Company of Night" had pagan roots, and were considered dangerous and heretical. Those convicted of heresy might be imprisoned, tortured or even burned at the stake. The persecution became most pronounced with the ascendancy of the Dominican Friar, Girolomo Savonarola. Many believe that when Lorenzo de' Medici died in 1492, the Italian Renaissance died with him.

For more fascinating information on this subject, read Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince's The Templar Revelation.
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"Maxwell tells the story of Caterina, a young alchemist’s daughter whose illicit love affair brings her the greatest love of her life, her genius son Leonardo. In order to watch over and protect him, she escapes from the restrictions of her gender, entering into a seductive garden of philosophy, art, learning and danger. From the dusty streets of Vinci and the glories of Il Magnifico's Florence, to the conspiratorial halls of Rome and Milan, the book celebrates one woman’s unquenchable ardor for knowledge, and a secret world that historical fiction readers rarely see."
— C.W. Gortner, author of THE LAST QUEEN

"Signora da Vinci is without a doubt the best historical fiction I have read all year. In her most remarkable novel yet, Robin Maxwell takes us back to the Italian Renaissance to give us a beautifully rendered and captivating portrait of Leonardo da Vinci's mother, Caterina. A masterful blend of fact and fiction, Signora da Vinci mesmerizes."

— Michelle Moran, Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen

"Here is a superbly imagined portrait of a woman living in turbulent times who boldly behaved as few dared.  Caterina da Vinci moved in a world that included the glittering Medici and the villainous Savonarola, all of whom are well-limned in this sparkling epic. Set in the sunshine of 15 th century Tuscany, the novel continually delights with intriguing details, from the bottega workshops of the great Italian masters to the minutiae of an alchemist's laboratory."

Vicki Leon, Uppity Women of the Renaissance, Working IX to V
For Reading Groups - Readers Guide Questions
Bonus Passport to Leonardo and Caterina's World!
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What is "The Shadow Renaissance?"
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Signora da Vinci JANE Augie Appleby NEW! ATLANTOS
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