Thursday, September 11, 2014

Marouflage: The Things That You Learn When You Write A Book

The Crazy Old Lady's Secret is still in process. I hoped to have it out by August but it is looking like it could be October. It is a long story—the longest Beacon Hill Chronicle so far—and it is different than the others in that it is neither a mystery or a horror story but rather psychological suspense. It is not hard to figure out what is going on and, eventually, it is not hard to figure out who is doing it. The question is, why? Why is this happening?

And there is one rather juicy twist in the story that comes about two-thirds of the way through.

The story is mostly based in Boston's art world and one of my beta readers pointed out something intriguing to me. In one of the early chapters, Ramin Aria, the new owner of GrammyLou's townhouse, tells lawyer Cushing Phillips that he is going to have the murals removed and it Matty (GrammyLou's granddaughter) wants them he will ship them to her. This becomes important later on in the story. However, my reader made an interesting observation. She said that she thought murals were painted directly on to walls, so how could they be removed without removing the entire wall? Fair point.

Because I was an art major in college and have worked around artists much of my life, I knew that many murals are painted on canvas in the artist's studio and only affixed to the wall later. This serves several purposes. It allows the artist to work in her studio where the light is probably best. It frees the client from having someone working in their house for days, weeks, months. Plus it allows the mural to be removed at a later date if the owner so wishes to take it elsewhere.

What I did not know is that there is a name for this technique. It is called “marouflage” and is a technique developed by French artists. When I found the word (thanks to the internet) I was delighted because Ramin Aria, despite his Middle Eastern name, lived in Paris most of his life so it would stand to reason he would be familiar with the technique. I was also struck by the similarity of the word “marouflage” to the word “decoupage” which is the affixing of paper or fabric images to a surface and sealing them with a heavy coating.

So, thanks to my very conscientious beta reader, I changed one scene slightly to clarify it for future readers. To wit:

Cushing picked up the pearl-colored embossed business cards. "Mattie was only five when her parents died and she went there to live with her grandmother. It's very kind of you to be concerned."
Aria waved a hand dismissively. “I plan to do extensive renovations. There are a number of murals especially in the second floor rooms. Unfortunately they are not particularly distinguished and I will most likely have them removed. If Madame Michaud would like to have them, I'd be happy to ship them to her.”
"I suspect she doesn't," Cushing said, "but I'll let her know. I'm surprised to hear you say they're of little interest. The Thorndikes collected some very fine art. I remember paintings by John Singer Sargeant and Lilian Westcott Hale in that house."
Aria raised an eyebrow. “Those would be valuable.”
I remember the murals in that house.” Cushing's brows knit, as he probed his memory. “I didn't know they could be removed. I thought murals were painted directly on the wall. Do you have to remove the entire wall?”
Not at all. Many muralists, particularly those who paint finely detailed pastorals, paint on canvas which is then applied to the wall. Actually, the French developed the technique. It is called marouflage.” Aria's face became animated as he spoke. “There were, of course, some great muralists of the period during which my new home was built but the overwhelming popularity of murals at one time led some homeowners to settle for inferior work when a more accomplished artist was unavailable to them. Naturally, one always hopes that there are treasures to be found in these old homes but such is not always the case.”

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