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I read this story a long time ago and I can’t for the life of me get it by googling.

Key details (these get somewhat spoilery if you haven't read this and feel like you might want to):

  • Featured one of Gardner Dozois' Year's Best anthologies

  • Female protagonist

  • Set in near future

  • Protagonist sent to ascertain authenticity of newly discovered Arcimboldo paintings, or something along those lines

  • She is either drugged and the drug drives her insane, or goes insane naturally, or both

  • She is attacked by men claiming to be protectors the Habsburg name and legacy

  • Features a great bit where she interacts directly with one of the paintings' subjects during a hallucination

Thank you to anyone who can tell me the author and title.

  • Did it actually feature the paintings (as a picture), or just name-drop the painter? – Valorum Oct 15 '16 at 17:14
  • There were no pictures, if that's what you mean, but the paintings are described in detail. – ovon Oct 16 '16 at 9:37
2

"The Coming of Vertumnus", by Ian Watson

Featured one of Gardner Dozois' Year's Best anthologies

Correct, the tenth annual edition.

Female protagonist

Was I the Jill Donaldson who had written Aesthetic Concupiscence?

Set in near future

Although a year isn't mentioned, the exorbitant prices of London real estate and the technology level are consistent with the time period the story was written (1980s-1990s).

Protagonist sent to ascertain authenticity of newly discovered Arcimboldo paintings, or something along those lines

Close! She is an art critic paid to write an introduction to an art book of "newly discovered" Arcimboldos that are actually modern forgeries meant to discredit a Green movement using legitimate Arcimboldos as advertising.

She is either drugged and the drug drives her insane, or goes insane naturally, or both

Immediately one hand pressed under my nose and another on my jaw, to force my mouth open.

'Drink!'

Liquid poured down my throat -- some sweet concoction masking a bitter undertaste. I gagged and spluttered but had no choice except to swallow.

What had I drunk? What had I drunk?

... and it's all downhill for her from there.

She is attacked by men claiming to be protectors the Habsburg name and legacy

'Libels against a certain Holy Roman Emperor, Miss Donaldson. Thus, libels against the Habsburg dynasty... which may yet be the salvation of Europe, and of the world. Very untimely libels.' The gent raised his cane and slashed it to and fro as if decapitating daisies. 'I am sure you will see reason to denounce your fabrications publicly...'

Features a great bit where she interacts directly with one of the paintings' subjects during a hallucination

Until one day the door opened yet again, and golden light bathed my prison chamber.

Vertumnus himself advanced--the fruitful God, his cheeks of ripe apple and peach, head crowned with fruit and grain, his chest a mighty pumpkin. His cherry and blackberry eyes glinted.

Rudolph!

He reached for me. Oh to be embraced by him! To be warmed.

He lifted my paralyzed naked body from its dusty niche.

edit: This is the Vertumnus painting referenced: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertumnus_%28painting%29

  • that's the one! thanks very much! I really enjoyed this and I wanted to read it again. – ovon Nov 24 '16 at 19:51

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