The Improbability of Love by Hannah Mary RothschildA dazzling, witty and tenderly savage satire of London life and the art world that is also a surprising and wonderful love story.
When lovelorn Annie McDee stumbles across a dirty painting in a junk shop while looking for a present for an unsuitable man, she has no idea what she has discovered. Soon she finds herself drawn unwillingly into the tumultuous London art world, populated by exiled Russian oligarchs, avaricious Sheikas, desperate auctioneers and unscrupulous dealers, all scheming to get their hands on her painting - a lost eighteenth-century masterpiece called ‘The Improbability of Love’. Delving into the painting’s past, Annie will uncover not just an illustrious list of former owners, but some of the darkest secrets of European history – and in doing so she might just learn to open up to the possibility of falling in love again.
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In my novel, the painting, The Improbability of Love, is a made-up work by a real artist Antoine Watteau. This dictated what kind of characters would inhabit the story — only certain types are involved with French Old Masters. If the painting had been by Monet or Sigmar Polke or Tracy Emin, then the people around it would have been quite different. As I have worked in different aspects of the art world, writing about art and the art business did not feel too alien. However I was careful to choose an artist, Antoine Watteau, about whom we know next to nothing.
The Improbability of Love: Confessions of an Art Junkie (7th May 2015)
It may be a reference to the musical scale, to the various stages of flirting and seduction, or to the music which facilitates these. - The book was selected with the help of a panel made up of Reading Agency and library staff from across the UK. We have an exclusive extract available for you to read.
If art could talk, how would it sound? The art she animates is a long-lost masterpiece by the French painter Antoine Watteau One might expect a painting of this type to sound like Zsa Zsa Gabor, fussing about what to wear to the Revolution. Or maybe a bit like Benjamin Guggenheim as he appeared in Titanic , sipping scotch as the water rushes in. Au contraire. What we get is not so much the ghost of Watteau himself as what it feels like to be a lost masterpiece, the prettiest girl at the party languishing in a London junk shop.
Hannah Rothschild, the incoming chair of the National Gallery, remembers the moment she first saw the artwork that changed her life. During her gap year before university, doing a "desperately dull job" in the Louvre in Paris, she stumbled upon Pierrot by the 18th-century painter Jean-Antoine Watteau. I came face-to-face with the painting by accident and got a real emotional shock," she said. Little did she know that three decades later that work and its painter would help provide inspiration for her first novel, published last month. The Improbability of Love is a satirical romp through the London art scene, with a host of colourful characters from art dealers to exiled oligarchs, fixers and museum chiefs to auctioneers and wealthy patrons.