Two artists dominate this tale: Raffaello Sanzi (1483 – 1520), Italian painter and architect of the Italian High Renaissance best known for his Madonnas. The second is a handsome sidewalk artist named Raphael who lives in contemporary Paris and draws pictures of cherubs with delicate faces on the sidewalks and entrances of the
The cherubs are the first things that visiting American writer Tulia Rose sees when she spies Raphael on the street. Tulia has been given an all expenses-paid trip to Europe by her stockbroker boyfriend, Ethan, while he carries on with Tulia's best friend, Jasmine, back in New York.
In an effort to forget about Ethan, Tulia finds herself strangely attracted to this enigmatic man with his black jeans, black shirt, and a tapestry vest embroidered with a wild tangle of birds, suns and flowers. And in Tulia, Raphael sees a woman who appreciates beauty as he doggedly begins to pursue her though the streets of Paris.
Although it crosses her mind that he may be a stalker, she's also mindful of the fact that she never expected to meet a man like him. As Raphael follows her to Italy, beguiling her with romance and art, Tulia begins to realize just how far how far she has strayed from her dreams; her capacity to love is transformed almost overnight.
Tulia thinks of Rafael as charming, maybe just a little bit crazy, certainly attractive.
She also senses something deeper. On the surface he appears to be just a charming sidewalk artist, full of magic tricks, a man who gives no real clues to his actual identity or even where he comes from, but his eyes give away something else – compassion, sadness, and perhaps even desire.
Suffering a case of writer's block since the failure of her previous novel,
Tulia's chance meeting with the sidewalk artist gives her the start of a new story. She begins to make copious notes, deciding that her new book will be about Raffaello Sanzi, centering on his favorite lover, the model for the portrait of
"The Baker's Daughter."
Tulia's money problems, her loneliness, her book, and the anger with Ethan and Jasmine all seem to float away over the roofs of the palazzos when she is in Venice with Raphael, where "everything, absolutely everything is possible." Steeping herself in Italian art and culture, she studies Raffaello's self-portrait and realizes that beardless, the Renaissance painter does indeed bear a similar appearance to her own sidewalk artist.
Co-authors Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk subtly reveal Tulia's complexities, paralleling the life of Raffaello Sanzi with their heroine's emotional and spiritual awakening, and her willingness to experience this new world of romantic love, even though her exotic new beau may be just a cruel apparition.
Skillfully weaving the past and the present in with a little bit of fact and fiction, The Sidewalk Artist is a beautifully written romantic novel
showing how the longevity of the artistic temperament can almost certainly never be assailed.
The descriptions of Paris, Venice, Firenze, and the Tuscan countryside are the novel's strength, with the authors readily evoking a sort of dreamlike beauty of the landscape. This is a lovely and exotic tale of dreams and love and desire; it's a tale of choices exploring the often-complex relationship that exists between the artist and his muse.