This post provides a book summary of “The Marriage Portrait” by Maggie O’Farrell. She wrote it in 2022. Since its publication, the book has rapidly gained popularity. But what makes this story so compelling? Get to know the main character, whose life is cloaked in mystery and intrigue as two different historical periods collide.
The Marriage Portrait | Book Summary
There are two time periods in this story. A young girl named Lucrezia di Medici is the protagonist of the narrative. She lived in the distant past. We initially meet Lucrezia when she is 16 years old in the first section. In the year 1561, she lived in an isolated area known as the Fortezza. She is brought there by her husband Alfonso since she is not feeling well. But Lucrezia thinks her husband is trying to hurt her. She believes he even attempted to poison her.
Lucrezia confides in her maid Emilia about her worries. She brought her maid with her from Florence. Il Bastianino is one of the artists present. He was making a picture of Lucrezia. Lucrezia is informed that she is in danger by the artist’s assistant Jacopo. He aids her in escaping as well.
The 2nd part of the story takes us back to 1544. The year when Lucrezia was born. She grew up in the Medici palace in Florence, Italy. She’s a bit unusual. She likes to do things differently. She likes eating on the floor and befriending a tiger. Despite her quirks, she’s very smart and talented in art.
Lucrezia first meets Alfonso when she is about ten years old. Alfonso will become her husband later. However, she was unaware at that time of how important he would become in her life. Lucrezia becomes the one who will marry Alfonso after the sudden death of her older sister Maria. Sofia, her nurse, seeks to delay the wedding. However, it finally happened in 1560. Her maid, Emilia travels with her to Ferrara, where she will live with Alfonso.
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Lucrezia first loves her time spent in the countryside. She quickly learns, though, that Alfonso is not a loving husband. He has a lot of secrets and is dominating. Additionally, Lucrezia finds out that he might not be able to have children. She befriends the artist’s helper Jacopo, with whom she shares secrets.
In Ferrara, Lucrezia meets Alfonso’s sisters, Elisabetta and Nunciata. Elisabetta has a secret love affair. Therefore Alfonso punishes her cruelly. Lucrezia, who sympathizes with Elisabetta, manages to move around the castle secretly.
As time goes on, Lucrezia becomes unhappy. She wants to go back to Florence. Her parents, however, want her to have a child to secure her position. Alfonso even tries different treatments to make her fertile.
The two parts of the story come together in the end. Alfonso brings Lucrezia to a distant location named Stellata. Lucrezia worries that he’ll hurt her. So she decides to flee with Jacopo’s help. She leaves that night secretly, but something dreadful happens. Alfonso and his henchman kill Emilia. They believed she was Lucrezia. They are convinced that they killed the duchess.
It is said that Lucrezia’s death was an accident. Later Alfonso remarries. At the court, Lucrezia’s paintings gained notoriety.
So, we follow Lucrezia’s life in this novel as she flees a perilous situation. It’s a story of love, secrets, and a young girl’s courage. We hope you find this book summary of The Marriage Portrait useful.
Kamran is a literature graduate from a reputed university. He started his journey in the world of writing blogs in 2012. Over the years, his passion for writing and love of books evolved into a dedicated book blog. With a discerning eye from a literature lover, he offers reviews, summaries, and thought-provoking discussion questions.