Sunday, April 29, 2012

Paul Manship's Leda in "Depraved Heart"

People often ask me about the images used on the covers of my books. I love creating digital collage and always try to incorporate imagery that relates to the story. One of the images used on the cover of my new novel Depraved Heart is a sculpture by the great Paul Manship, the sculptor of the iconic golden Prometheus in front of Rockefeller Center. The image on my cover is his Leda which I photographed when it was on exhibit in the North Shore Arts Association some years back.

Because the core of the story is about a fabulous art collection in a mansion on the (imaginary) island of Hephzibah Regrets off the coast of Salem and Gloucester, I had a wonderful time weaving in stories about the various artists who lived and worked in this area. There are a number of scenes set on Rocky Neck and some in Lanesville, too. But one of my favorite parts of the story is when Anjelica, the young heiress, reveals a hidden statue she was keeping secret afraid that she would be asked to sell it. The statue, hidden in an overgrown grotto, is Manship's Leda and when Tempest, the art curator hired to catalog the Ravenscroft art collection sees it she is moved to tears by the poignancy of the statue and its symbolism. Leda, in mythology, was seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan (what all those girls did fooling around with critters is a whole other story) and from their union she gave birth to twins: a boy, Polydeuces, and a girl, Helen, who was later known as Helen of Troy.

In my story the wild, undisciplined Rosalind Ravenscroft has an affair with a local fisherman who later abandons her leaving her with twins, a boy Wyatt Ravenscroft Silver, who is called Raven, and a girl, Rachel. Raven and Rachel are distinguished ballet dancers. One night, during a wild party, Raven is shot and killed and his sister's husband, Syd, is convicted of  "depraved heart" murder. So the statue of Leda is a wonderful metaphor for this tale. 

I love Manship's statue. I love the way Leda stands with her arms over her head, eyes downcast, longing for her lover while her tiny babies cling to her skirts. While I was writing I often thought of Rosalind in the same pose, longing for her fisherman, with Rachel and Raven clinging to her. It is a beautiful image to me that tugs at my heart and was instrumental to the creation of my tale.

Thanks for reading.

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