Thursday, February 22, 2018

Guest Blog - La Contessa by S. Nano

The inspiration behind La Contessa’s art collection.

The setting for La Contessa is 18th century Venice. Indeed, the city is almost like an extra character in the story, providing the perfect back drop for the debauched games and political plotting of its main character.

I think my fascination for the period and the city goes back to a time before going up to university (in the late 1970s!) when, living within commuting distance of London, I worked there for several months and used my season ticket as an opportunity to go up to town every weekend. One of the things I did was visit all the art galleries in London and this led me to the National Gallery and the fabulous paintings by Caneletto there. How I loved those paintings, their amazing composition, glorious colours and fantastic attention to detail. I stood and stared at those paintings for ages!

Only last year there was a major exhibition of Caneletto’s in the Queen’s Gallery from the royal collection. England’s envoy to Venice in the 18th century was a man called Joseph Smith, who was also an art collector and acted as Caneletto’s agent, using his palazzo on the Grand Canal as a showroom for the artist’s work. The reason the Queen has such an incredible collection of Caneletto’s and other 18th century Venetian artists is that George III bought Joseph Smith’s entire collection. Though La Contessa had already been written and edited by then, that exhibition was a real treat!
Venetian art from the 18th century is undoubtedly one of the influences on the book. La Contessa is a collector of art, and she has commissioned the leading artists of the day to produce works for her, including Caneletto!  My narrator, Roberto, is also something of an art expert. Despite being orphaned and hitting on hard times which forced him into a life of prostitution in the least salubrious alleys of Venice, his father was a wealthy merchant and taught him about art.

So, La Contessa has a fabulous collection of art work, much of it containing erotica! There are: statues of sea nymphs by Giuseppe Torretti, frescoes by Tiepolo, portraits by Rosalba Carriera, paintings by Sebastian Ricci and Pietro Longhi and canal scenes by Guardi. A massive painting by Canaletto takes pride of place in the entrance hall of her palazzo and depicts La Contessa dressed in an elaborate mask at its centre, observing a regatta on the Grand Canal from her balcony.

Have I been to Venice? Yes, but it was many years ago. I had to rely on such memories as I could recall and research to capture the spirit of La Contessa’s Venice. And there’s lots of added BDSM kinkiness in there too! But I must go back, and a re-visit is definitely on my bucket list.

Story Extract

In keeping with my blog post this extract from the book focuses on Roberto’s observations on the art work in La Contessa’s ballroom as her guests arrive for the Carnevale Ball, the climax of the book..

All is prepared. The guests have finished their banquet and file into the ballroom to wait in excited anticipation for their host’s appearance. We follow them to take up our allotted positions, still dressed in the silk cloaks and peacock, phoenix, and swan masks. I’m excited. I’ve heard much about the palazzo’s ballroom, and now I’m finally getting the chance to see it.

It’s like walking into a dream. There’s so much happening it’s hard to take it in. The overwhelming impact is one of opulence. The ballroom is vast, accommodating hundreds of guests with ease. I’m surprised at how light and airy the room is. I was expecting baroque grandeur, but the panelled walls are in pastel shades of blue and green, decorated with delicate filigree patterns of foliage in gold. Along the length of the ceiling are candelabra of Murano crystal with candles set in them, making it rain sparks of rainbow light on the revellers. It’s an architectural delight, and beautiful because it has a sense of restraint. This glorious light filled space is a delight. I stand there open-mouthed looking around.

Then there’s the art work, all by renowned artists and tasteful. Well, it’s extremely explicit but executed in a tasteful manner! There are huge canvases on the wall between each set of window frames. The overall theme is classical, specifically classical love stories; more specifically love stories involving perverted sex. The ballroom is bursting with rosy buttocks, bouncing breasts and rampant penises.

I recognise the stories they depict. Zeus features prominently, but then he was a horny god. There’s Zeus as a cuckoo proposing to Hera, seducing Europa in the form of a bull, fucking Leda in the shape of a swan, and abducting Ganymede as an eagle. There’s a definite bestiality and shape-shifting theme going on. There’s one shockingly explicit painting of a god peeing. It takes a while for me to work it out until I realise the painting depicts Zeus seducing Danae as a shower of gold though in this depiction the golden shower is painted literally. I hope to examine them more closely in daylight, but for now I scan the room transfixed as I appreciate the rich colours of the oils as they glow in the candlelight.

To my surprise I get a gentle nudge from Becky; she glances across at me and mouths, “Wow!”
The ballroom alone is enough to take the breath away, but the revellers packing it out add yet more colour and magnificence. Venetians dress up for Carnevale and, given the room is full of people from La Contessa’s inner circle and many of the city’s wealthiest inhabitants, it’s hardly surprising to see an array of outrageous ball gowns, tunics and masks. My flamboyant peacock mask looks restrained compared to others. There are silk, damask, and velvet dresses with extravagant collars and lace ruffs.

The jewellery on display is breath taking in its opulence. The guests glitter with silver, gold, pearls, and precious stones, an abundance of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds being on show. There are embroidered masks of white, black, silver, and gold decorated with exotic displays of feathers. There are panniers so wide the women can barely fit through the door. Mademoiselle is wearing such a gown made of emerald silk decorated with orange flowers with a massive golden bow. The ballroom is filled with a rainbow of colours, blinding in their dazzling brilliance.

The atmosphere is raucous and licentious. They’re drunk on wines and brandies, and ready for a party. They want entertainment and, this being the decadent republic of La Serenissima, and these being amongst of its most liberated citizens, they want debauchery.

La Contessa
S. Nano

Genre: BDSM, Historical Erotica

Publisher: eXcessica

Date of Publication: 26 January 2018

Number of pages: 271
Word Count: 90.500

Cover Artist: Kevin Blisse

Book Description:

The most decadent city…

The most perverted mistress…

Renowned for her beauty and cruelty, La Contessa’s reputation as a dominatrix is well established. And eighteenth century Venice has degenerated into a decadent and lascivious city, the perfect backdrop for her to play-out her debauched games and political ambitions.

She sends her maid, Julia, into the alleyways to search for a young man to act as her slave. Julia finds Roberto prostituting himself in the least salubrious district of Venice. He enters into La Contessa’s service to perform her bizarre and sadistic scenes.

From their first meeting there is a mutual attraction between maid and servant. The young couple engineer a series of sexual encounters, knowing the risks should their mistress discover them. Their situation is complicated when La Contessa rescues Becky and brings her to the palazzo as her submissive girl-slave. The interloper exposes Julia’s jealousies… and the feelings for her mistress.

How long can Roberto and Julia keep their love secret? Will Becky’s presence thwart their relationship? Will La Contessa’s scheming bring her the richest prize in all Venice?

All is resolved before the grand ball and masked, BDSM orgy held by La Contessa in her palazzo as the climax to Venice’s Carnivale.

About the Author:

S. Nano is a writer of erotic stories with dark and exotic content in fantasy or historical settings drawing on the themes of female domination, BDSM and fetish but often with a seam of quirky humour running through them.

‘La Contessa’ is his third full length novel. ‘Adventures in Fetishland’, a BDSM/fetish re-invention of the classic Alice stories was published by Xcite Books and ‘Mistress of the Air’, a comic, Steampunk, erotic adventure was published by eXcessica. His novellas and short stories have been published by Xcite Books, House of Erotica, Forbidden Fiction, Coming Together and Greenwoman Publishing.

He is a regular participant in reading slams at ‘Smut by the Sea’ and similar events in the UK, contributing a workshop ‘Kinking Up the Past’, on getting inspiration for erotic stories in historical settings, in 2015.