The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velazquez

Laura Cumming
Format: Paperback Pages: 320 pages Publisher: Vintage Publishing Publication Date: 03/01/2017 Category: History of art & design styles: c 1600 to c 1800 ISBN: 9780099587040
by SRB

Books of the Year 2017 – A Literary Advent Calendar

December 14, 2017 | by SRB

We’ve asked Scotland’s leading writers, booksellers, festival directors and critics to pick one, or two, books — published this year or in the past — that they most enjoyed reading in 2017. There will be new selections every day until 21 December — so keep reading for great ideas about what to read next and visit your nearest high street bookshop to purchase your Christmas gifts! Dr John Scally takes us forward on 14th December.

DR JOHN SCALLY, National Librarian and Chief Executive of the National Library of Scotland

A book that has stuck with me since I read it earlier in the year is The Vanishing Man by Laura Cumming (Vintage, £9.99). It takes a fairly unpromising subject, a young Charles I and an obsessive Reading bookseller John Snare, and fuses it.  The result is part detective story, part pocket biography of the mighty Velazquez and a damning critique of Victorian society. Edinburgh figures largely in the second part of the book, the city where the author was born and grew up, while Reading, Madrid and New York feature prominently. The pace rarely drops so it is a book I carried around with me until the last page was turned, on the bus, at lunchtime or on the toilet shortly after the alarm had gone off.

What it leaves you with is a deeper knowledge of the greatest painter of the 17th Century, a profound sympathy for an obsessive personality who vanishes in New York and a great deal of satisfaction that you have read an author in complete command of her subject. And finally, it brings on an uncontrollable urge to tap her name into a search engine to see what else she has written.

Blog / Discussion