Reviewed by Me for TeensReadToo.com
THE JANUS GATE is a very different type of story. Part of the ART ENCOUNTERS series published by Watson-Guptill, it is at times a biographical sketch, a historical treatise, and a Victorian gothic story of the supernatural. THE JANUS GATE is a fictionalized account based on artist John Singer Sargent and, most specifically, his painting entitled The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.
In 1882, Sargent painted the Boit daughters - Florence, Jane, Mary, and Julia - along with Julia's very large, very ugly doll, P-Paul, or Popau. Mr. Sargent met the Boit family during Varnishing Day at the Palais d'Industrie in Paris, where he found himself explaining the meaning of a painting entitled The Janus Gate to Edward Boit and his daughters. When the young girls beg to be painted by Mr. Sargent, he eagerly seals the deal; a deal that, later, he will come to regret.
If you've never seen a picture of The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, you'll be surprised to learn that it is not a happy painting. The two eldest Boit daughters hide in shadow, one looks angelic yet defiant, and the youngest, with the grotesque doll, beseeches the artist with her large eyes.
There has been, and probably always will be, controversy over this portrait done early in John Singer Sargent's career. How can this rightfully be called a portrait when two of the girls aren't even clearly pictured? Why is the doll in the painting at all? What did Mr. Sargent really see when he looked at the Boit girls?
There is truth in the saying that life imitates art. Florence and Jane, the two oldest sisters who hid in shadow in their portrait, later went crazy. Popau, Julia's doll, had a major role in leading Mr. Sargent to the brink of his own Janus Gate. Although we'll never know exactly what the artist was thinking while painting this portrait, we can know that it probably wasn't at all pleasant.
Douglas Rees has done a marvelous job of bringing art to life with THE JANUS GATE. At once a fictionalized account of a historical event and an eerie Gothic thriller, art history buffs and fans of historical fiction will all enjoy this look into the life of John Singer Sargent.