In connection with The Historical Fiction Club’s Author Takeover, I am happy to welcome to my blog and podcast today, Drema Drudge, author of Victorine. To follow the author takeover on Monday, March 15th, you can go to this link: The Historical Fiction Club and join.
Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art.
As an interesting aside, I had to look up this rare disorder and was amazed in reading about this occurence.
The affliction is named after the 19th-century French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle), who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio. When he visited the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Niccolò Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Galileo Galilei are buried, he was overcome with profound emotion. Stendhal wrote:
I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty … I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations … Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call ‘nerves’. Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling.
Although psychologists have long debated whether Stendhal syndrome exists, the apparent effects on some individuals are severe enough to warrant medical attention. The staff at Florence’s Santa Maria Nuova hospital are accustomed to tourists suffering from dizzy spells or disorientation after viewing the statue of David, the artworks of the Uffizi Gallery, and other historic relics of the Tuscan city.
Though there are numerous accounts of people fainting while taking in Florentine art, dating from the early 19th century, the syndrome was only named in 1979, when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed over a hundred similar cases among tourists in Florence. There exists no scientific evidence to define Stendhal syndrome as a specific psychiatric disorder; however, there is evidence that the same cerebral areas involved in emotional responses are activated during exposure to art. The syndrome is not listed as a recognised condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
A more recent account of the Stendhal syndrome was in 2018, where a visitor to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence suffered a heart attack while admiring Sandro Botticelli‘s The Birth of Venus.
The knowledge of this affliction, if you can call it an affliction, I sort of think of it as a spellbinding intoxication with the beauty of art. I can understand this since I feel that same overwhelming feeling whenever I am near anything relating to Shakespeare.
Back to our guest, Drema, she attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction.
Drēma has been writing in one capacity or another since she was nine, starting with terrible poems and graduating to melodramatic stories in junior high that her classmates passed around literature class.
She and her husband, musician and writer Barry Drudge, live in Indiana where they record their biweekly podcast, Writing All the Things, when not traveling. Her first novel, Victorine, was literally written in six countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. The pair has two grown children.
In addition to writing fiction, Drēma has served as a writing coach, freelance writer, and educator.
For more about her writing, art, and travels, please visit her website, www.dremadrudge.com, and sign up for her newsletter. When you do, you’ll get a free historical fiction story about artists Olga Meerson and Henri Matisse and their alleged affair.
Drema’s always happy to connect with readers in her Facebook group, The Painted Word Salon, or on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Victorine Meurent is a forgotten, accomplished painter who posed nude for Edouard Manet’s most famous, controversial paintings such as Olympia and The Picnic in Paris, paintings heralded as the beginning of modern art. History has forgotten (until now) her paintings, despite the fact that she showed her work at the prestigious Paris Salon multiple times, even one year when her mentor, Manet’s, work was refused.
Her persistent desire in the novel is not to be a model anymore but to be a painter herself, despite being taken advantage of by those in the art world, something which causes her to turn, for a time, to every vice in the Paris underworld, leading her even into the catacombs.
In order to live authentically, she eventually finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy, and further tested when she inches towards art school while financial setbacks push her away from it. The same can be said when it comes to her and love, which becomes substituted, eventually, by art.
Book and Author Links
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/39XVRFt
One Review or Awards
By Pirate Patty Reviews – “Victorine Meurent. You may not know the name, but you know her. Take a look at Manet’s Olympia or Picnic on the Grass. Victorine models for many artists. She is living in Paris, posing nude or clothes. But her secret desire is to be the painter, not the model.
In 1863, a woman artist is laughable. It is not a career that is encouraged by parents or society. But Victorine is no ordinary woman. No. She is a force of nature, steamrolling her way to her dreams. She doesn’t want someone else’s life, she wants to live her life. And she does.”
“She endures the horror of the occupation of Paris. She makes do with nothing. But she is always kind and loving. Victorine is one of the most interesting women I have had the pleasure to read about. She is smart, curious, and determined. Her personality is so strong and the author portrays her so well, you can feel her emotions. This is not something I come across every day. I wanted it to last longer. I honestly don’t have words for the energy this work of art is. Victorine came to life with the language the author used. I have a feeling we shall see more!”
*Author of Victorine, a novel about the iconic model of Manet’s Olympia turned painter, virtually forgotten by history, until now. Sign up to my newsletter, Artful Fiction, at: www.dremadrudge.com. Podcast: Writing All the Things