Portrait of an Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead
New York Times Notable author María Gainza, who dazzled critics with Optic Nerve, returns with the captivating story of an auction house employee on the trail of an enigmatic master forger.
On sale March 22, 2022 • ISBN: 9781646220328
In the Buenos Aires art world, a master forger has achieved legendary status. Rumored to be a woman, she seems especially gifted at forging canvases by the painter Mariette Lydis, a portraitist of Argentine high society. But who is this absurdly gifted creator of counterfeits? What motivates her? And what is her link to the community of artists who congregate, night after night, in a strange establishment called the Hotel Melancólico?
On the trail of this mysterious forger is our narrator, an art critic and auction house employee through whose hands counterfeit works have passed. As she begins to take on the role of art-world detective, adopting her own methods of deception and manipulation, she warns us “not to proceed in expectation of names, numbers or dates… My techniques are those of the impressionist.”
Driven by obsession and full of subtle surprise, Portrait of an Unknown Lady is a highly seductive and enveloping meditation on what we mean by "authenticity" in art, and a captivating exploration of the gap between what is lived and what is told.
MARÍA GAINZA was born in Buenos Aires, where she still resides. She has worked as a correspondent for The New York Times in Argentina, as well as for ARTnews. She has also been a contributor to Artforum, The Buenos Aires Review, Radar, the cultural supplement from Argentine newspaper Página/12. She is coeditor of the collection Los Sentidos (The Senses) on Argentinean art, and in 2011 she published Textos elegidos (Selected TextsOptic Nerve is her first work of fiction and her first book to be translated into English.
THOMAS BUNSTEAD has translated some of the leading Spanish-language writers working today, including Bernardo Atxaga, Agustín Fernández Mallo, and Enrique Vila-Matas, and his own writing has appeared in publications such as Brixton Review of Books, Lit Hub, and The White Review. He is currently a Royal Literary Fellow teaching at Aberystwyth University. He was born in London and now lives in Pembrokeshire, Wales.