When a renowned artist is commissioned to paint the Duchess - the wife of a retired American General, he finds himself drawn into a relationship beyond his control or understanding. As the portrait progresses, so their new love blossoms and so does their fear of the wrath of the General.
Tender and naïve, yet terrifying, The Duchess is both a love story and a secular horror story, and a savage indictment of power as it operates in the contemporary world.
Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue ‘My Last Duchess’ is the inspiration for Tim Kelly’s latest novella. Kelly reworks Browning’s tragic and sinister lyric poem set during the Italian Renaissance, and updates it to our own techno-enhanced century of dirty money and the commodification of art and people. The novella’s tight, sparse prose outlines its narrative of inevitable calamity like a pencil sketch for a study in oils. The chiaroscuro of human relations, in their shadowy complexity, remains implicit until the shocking denouement, rendered stylistically in a stark and chilling communicative mode which is as terrifying as it is entirely contemporary. The Duchess is both a moving tribute to Browning’s own subtle recreation of the middle ages, and a harrowing denunciation of the politics and the diminution of art in our own times.”
A sensual story full of sustained menace that feels both mannered and horrifyingly modern.”