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The Serpent and The Flame by Valerie Ceriano

The Serpent and The Flame

by Valerie Ceriano

674 pages
An artist pursues his destiny through an empire’s opulent courts.

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Category: Fiction:Historical
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About the Book
In Valerie Ceriano’s panoramic novel of the eighteenth century, Power is the fortress and Beauty its arsenal as the sculptor Marcantonio Rossi pursues his destiny across a landscape teeming with rival craftsmen, architects, painters and princes, each vying for dominion in the opulent courts of an empire.

The Serpent and the Flame opens amidst the ruin of post-World War II Germany before turning to the verge of the eighteenth century, where Flavia Marchetti meets Benigno Rossi. She is a poor lacemaker and he is a brash artisan from the Ceresio, a region that enriches all of Europe with its master craftsmen. When their son Marco is born and spared death by a miraculous icon, the arc of an extraordinary life and time is launched.

Marco’s character is shaped by the aristocratic Visconti schoolmaster Silvestri as well as by the rigors of Benigno’s workshop, just as his psyche is forged in a sensual bond with the twins Nicola and Andrea, the shock waves of an ugly local murder, and the ebb and flow of an inborn fever. Marco’s youthful liaison with Miriam Levi ultimately leads to a clash with his own son, a gifted goldsmith, for the love of a beautiful singer.

As court sculptor to the powerful Friedrich Karl von Schönborn, Rossi joins forces with the architect Balthasar Neumann and his irascible foe, Lucas von Hildebrandt, and finally with the great Venetian painter Giambattista Tiepolo, all of whom thrive under the dynasties of bon vivant, connoisseur prince bishops. Thus Marco grapples with his demons to become presiding genius of the Rococo’s unique florescence in the imperial city of Würzburg.

As the machinations of an enigmatic black Egyptian sway his fortunes, Marco rises to fame, falls into madness, and at the end, finds grace through a sublime concord with art. His transcendence echoes through the decades, impelling Hilda Kress, a twentieth-century Trümmerfrau – “rubble woman” – to dedicate her life to the rebirth of the superb Würzburg Residence and to her city’s phoenix-like resurgence.

The Serpent and the Flame is, at its heart, the story of “The Line of Beauty”, so-called for the vitality of its “…serpent-like and flaming form.” The line snakes its way through the corridors of the great Residence, quickening the art and ornament of the eighteenth-century’s High Rococo, as in its tangled filaments it bears aloft, then away, artists and princes alike.



About the Author
Valerie Ceriano is a New Yorker delighting in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century art and culture. She first envisioned The Serpent and the Flame while viewing Baroque architecture in the south of Germany. Ceriano has written on images of Cleopatra in eighteenth-century Venice, and on various topics for local and national publications.



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