Our guest author today was Laura Marx Fitzgerald, author of the art mystery, Under the Egg. Laura gave us some great insights into the book with her presentation. She showed us a Raphael painting of a plainly dressed woman with a child that had been painted over at a later time to look like a biblical story. Who did that? And why? Was this woman La Fornarina? We don’t know. But discoveries like these really stimulate one’s imagination, as they did for Laura. She also told us more about the Monuments Men and the incredible stories of these “military artists” who saved so many great works of art in World War II.
She answered some pressing questions like: can you really get a painting X-rayed at a hospital? Yes. (We saw a photo of a possible Van Gogh painting in a MRI machine at the Portland, OR, hospital.) Can thirteen-year-olds really solve a complicated mystery? Yes. We learned the story of a fourth grade class in the Bronx who discovered a cemetery for slaves and got a monument built in honor of the people buried there.
As with all our authors, we got our books signed by Laura. And then we were off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art! Laura brought us to the European Paintings Gallery to see some of the masterpieces that appear in Under the Egg. We saw Raphael’s Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints, which Theo and Bodhi visit during their quest to find out the artist behind their own painting. Laura read us this part of the book, and it was great to compare the characters’ responses to the painting with our own.
Laura, who told us that she has a degree in Art History, showed us how portraits can reveal a lot about their subjects. Sometimes you can see what the person’s life was like just by the way a person is dressed or posed. Laura challenged us to find a portrait in the museum and write a short story about the subject’s life, using the painting’s context clues. We wrote stories about a spoiled princess, a poor woman who saved a baby from an oncoming storm, and a military general who used to be a villainous dodgeball player.
We headed to Central Park for lunch where we continued our conversation with Laura. After lunch we said goodbye to her and played a few intense rounds of Capture the Flag and Uno. Back at Symphony Space, we wrote author bios of ourselves, and before we knew it, Day 2 was over. We can’t wait to meet TWO exciting authors tomorrow– Henry Clark and Sophie Blackall!