This drawing of a priest looking at an album of pictures appears in Framing the drawing. an article about Renaissance artists who drew frames around drawings they collected. I found the whole thing interesting—more ways to frame! —but what electrified me was this particular image. It's so suggestive for a character in a story. Look at the man's concentration, the delicate tension in his extended finger. Connoisseur, scholar, merchant, alchemist? He seems to be pointing to something on the upper edge of the page. Why? Pick up clues where you find them, I say, and let your imagination run.
In this case, Carlo Maratta's dates are 1625–1713, so Baroque Italy would be an obvious setting for a bit of historical fiction. Yet surely the connoisseur could fit in any time between the 15th and 18th centuries anywhere there was enough wealth to support collecting.
At the moment, I'm reading the catalogue for Rembrandt and the Inspiration of India show at the J. Paul Getty Museum, which brings home just how rich the Mughal Empire was and how much exchange there was between the Netherlands and Asia. The possibilities opening up for plot lines, neighborhoods, occupations, and material objects in either historical or speculative fiction has me fizzing in that first lovely stage of making connections and seeing vistas open.
Here's hoping real vistas will soon be opening to us all in a post-COVID world, but meanwhile there really are treasures to be found on the web, aren't there?