A Right Royal Face-Off
It is 1777, and England’s second-greatest portrait
artist, Thomas Gainsborough, has a thriving practice
a stone’s throw from London’s royal palaces. Meanwhile, the press talks up his rivalry with Sir Joshua Reynolds, the pedantic theoretician who is the top dog of British portraiture.
Fonder of the low life than high society, Gainsborough loathes pandering to grand sitters, but he changes his tune when he is commissioned to paint King George III and his large family. In their final, most bitter competition, who will be chosen as court painter, Tom or Sir Joshua?
Two and a half centuries later, a badly damaged painting turns up on a downmarket TV antiques show being filmed in Suffolk. Could the monstrosity really be, as its eccentric owner claims, a Gainsborough? If so, who is the sitter? And why does he have donkey’s ears?
Mixing ancient and modern as he did in his acclaimed debut The Hopkins Conundrum, Simon Edge takes aim at fakery and pretension in this highly original celebration of one of our greatest artists.
‘The more of Simon Edge you read, the more you realise that every element of his stories is hand-selected and glued to the bigger picture – it’s whimsical, farce-like… scrapbooky, in the best possible way’
‘The way in which the eighteenth century is rendered in this novel is witty, observant and joyously gossipy. The characterisations are sharp and Simon Edge has the painter’s eye for detail. It is paced beautifully and nothing is wasted‘
‘I enjoyed this beguiling book very much. The interwoven strands between 1780s and the 2010s are beautifully managed and brilliantly resolved’
‘The rivalry between Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds is at the heart of this larky novel’
Read about the background to A Right Royal Face-Off here
‘One part mystery, one part history, one part satire, and wholly entertaining. A hilarious portrait of the artist as a frustrated man, Simon Edge’s novel is a glorious comedy of painting and pretension’
‘I loved this book, a laugh-out-loud contemporary satire skewering today’s tired reality TV formats married with a tale of vicious rivalry in the world of 18th-century royal portraiture. Simon Edge pins asses ears onto the lot of them, to great comic effect’
‘Highly entertaining and enjoyable’
Mark Bills, Director, Gainsborough’s House
‘It hooked me straight in from the beginning. It’s brilliant. I think you’ll enjoy this if you’re looking for a summer read’
Lesley Dolphin, BBC Radio Suffolk
‘A deft and exuberant satire that is pointed whilst avoiding cruelty’