The Shepherdess of Siena: A Novel of Renaissance Tuscany

The Shepherdess of Siena: A Novel of Renaissance Tuscany by Linda Lafferty Read Free Book Online

Book: The Shepherdess of Siena: A Novel of Renaissance Tuscany by Linda Lafferty Read Free Book Online
Authors: Linda Lafferty
and foal last night. And a little shepherdess performed a miracle!”
    Giorgio whistled in amazement. How quickly the news spread, servant to servant and mouth to mouth within the walls of Siena.
    He nodded, dodging a splash of urine from a chamber pot above.
    “Ah, a good haul today!” laughed the washerwoman, seeing him jump.
    “Arrivederci!” said Giorgio, dodging past the stinking barrel and trying to hurry, for he was late for his art lesson.
    “The tanner pays extra if he knows my goods are from Via di Città!” called the washerwoman. “No better piss, not even from the de’ Medici chamber pots!”
    “Certo,” laughed Giorgio. He stopped and winked at the laundress. A Senese is never in too much of a hurry to join in a joke. “De’ Medici piss? Their sheer meanness sets stains,” he whispered as loud as he dared.

    Giorgio brushed his cloak vigorously, then swept his fingers through his hair. He swung his head left to right, looking for any trace of hay, straw, or barley husk that might provoke a jeer from the wealthier students, especially the Florentines. He took a deep breath and cast a glance at the horse-drawn carriages blocking the entrance of Palazzo d’Elci. Young men descended onto the gray pietra serena cobblestones of the Via di Città.
    The noble class and merchant sons arrived on horseback or in carriages, servants toting their paints and easels, their soft soles scuffling behind the hard clicks of their masters’ heels.
    The caped attendant at Palazzo d’Elci took the gleaming swords, daggers, and even the dining knives from around the necks of the art students as they filed into the ancient palazzo. The Duca d’Elci, patron of the Accademia d’Arte Senese, permitted maestro Antonio Lungo to use the great white marble hall overlooking the piazza for his art classes, but only under strict conditions. The duca believed in the cultivation of Siena’s new generation of artists, but he also recognized artists’ fiery nature. He required everyone to surrender their weapons before crossing the threshold into Palazzo d’Elci.
    “Pace,” he said. “There shall be peace within the walls of my palazzo—only art shall thrive.”
    Giorgio stamped his feet against the cold. Despite the woolen rags he had stuffed in his boots, the sepulchral cold of the marble floor permeated the thin leather soles. The brass braziers had not defeated the brutal chill of the great hall so early in the morning.
    Giorgio wondered how the nobili could abide the cold in their palazzi . At least in his father’s stables, the horses’ bodies provided warmth during the Tuscan winter and radiated heat to the house above. But as Cesare Brunelli had told his son, “They are different than we are, figlio . They are cold-blooded creatures. Watch them walk, move. They are awkward with inbreeding, their foreheads long and narrow, their skin dry as parchment, their rib cages not wide enough for a sparrow to roost, their lips thin and brittle. They are simply not put together properly, these bluebloods. Unless they have some good bastard blood. A new stud or dam to enrich the stock, make them hearty. Inbreeding withers strength and conformation, even in humans.”
    Giorgio smiled. With a horseman’s eye, his father judged everything and everyone by spirit, conformation, and heart.
    The farrier’s son cupped his stiff brushes between his hands, forming a cave with his fingers and blowing warm breath to soften the bristles.
    His easel was close to the windows that looked out over the Piazza del Campo. The thick panes of crystal warped the view of the marketplace. He gazed at the vendors’ stalls, their cabbages and carrots, carved chairs, and baskets twisted into strange proportions by the crystal—the Chianina cattle’s creamy white buttocks misshapen as a twisted hunchback’s, the farmer’s head three times bigger than his torso.
    Giorgio thought of Michelangelo’s David , the enormous hands. How would he portray a

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