from author’s website

In her own words:

The first time I visited Venice as a wide-eyed teenager, I knew I was supposed to go home with Murano glass, but I had no idea why.

All I knew was that I was whisked to the famous “glass island” on an overcrowded, stinky boat. I waited behind two dozen American and Japanese tourists to pay an exorbitant price for a little glass fish—what a bewildering experience!

Still, it was the artistic traditions of the world that lured me back and inspired me to study the great artists of the past.

So, I began a lifelong study of art history.

Working as an art historian involves three things: teaching, researching, and writing. Doing art historical research is a passion for me, and I also love being in the classroom and sharing the history of art with my students. Writing for scholarly journals takes years of training and discipline. I have great respect for the craftsmanship of academic writing and for those who practice it. However, personally, after writing within the conventions of academic scholarship for some years, I began to feel like I was going to burst!

Turns out, I was doing it all wrong…

One day I found myself yawning in the audience of a scholarly conference, and I realized that there was something fundamentally wrong. After all, the history of art is the most fascinating topic in the world! Why do we scholars insist on making it dull and inaccessible? I realized then that, not only did I see an opportunity, I felt called to share the excitement of art history with a broader audience through my writing and teaching.

Over time, I began to make up answers to all the research questions in my head. And when I finally turned to writing historical fiction based on true stories of art history, that’s when I finally found my place in the world. 

My mission is to EDUCATEENTERTAIN, and INSPIRE with the stories of art history, both real and imagined.

Art history is really about stories and people. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. Other times, stories, or pieces of stories, are lost to history. And for me, that’s where imagination takes over, and fiction begins.

A Little More About Me…

  • Earned a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University
  • Have written for National Geographic Traveler, USA TODAY, Italy MagazineDepartures, and other media
  • Produced art history lessons for TED-Ed
  • Taught college students across the U.S. and in Italy, and now teach exclusively online
  • Have earned numerous awards for my historical fiction, as well as reviews in Writer’s Digest, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the Historical Novels Review, the Eric Hoffer Awards, National Indie Excellence, and others
  • Have had the privilege to live and work in five countries
  • Have enriched the experiences of many travelers over two decades with my Authentic Arts shopping guidebook series
  • Have a heart filled with home on the coast of Georgia, my husband, our four rapidly growing children, and our extended family. Love to pet all fur babies, but have a weak spot for pugs and fluffy cats


Two women of art. Two men of war. One painting. One obsession.

An exciting, dual-timeline historical novel about the creation of one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings, Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine, and the woman who fought to save it from Nazi destruction during World War II.

Milan, 1492: When a 16-year old beauty becomes the mistress of the Duke of Milan, she must fight for her place in the palace–and against those who want her out. Soon, she finds herself sitting before Leonardo da Vinci, who wants to ensure his own place in the ducal palace by painting his most ambitious portrait to date.

Munich, World War II: After a modest conservator unwittingly places a priceless Italian Renaissance portrait into the hands of a high-ranking Nazi leader, she risks her life to recover it, working with an American soldier, part of the famed Monuments Men team, to get it back. 

Two women, separated by 500 years, are swept up in the tide of history as one painting stands at the center of their quests for their own destinies.

Purchase your copy.


The Night Portrait by Laura Morelli, which links Renaissance Italy and the crucible of World War Two in the most absorbing and innovative fashion, is also a novel of profound emotional resonance. A respected art historian, Morelli brings an exceptional depth of research and understanding to a story already made memorable by her beautiful prose. This is a truly original novel that has earned its place among my favorite works of historical fiction.” (Jennifer Robson, bestselling author of The Gown)

“In a brilliantly written narrative that deftly cuts back and forth between the 15th and the 20th centuries, Morelli brings to vivid life the attempts by a German art restorer and an American soldier to rescue works of art from the destruction of war. This is a compelling story of two heroic people, of the young Cecelia who posed for Da Vinci, the artist, and the times they lived in. I am left with an affirmation of the crucial importance of art to a culture and the power of individual action.”
(Frances Mayes, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun and Women in Sunlight)

“Laura Morelli’s The Night Portrait is simply a masterpiece. Morelli imagines a sophisticated plot, fleshes it out with historically significant characters, and spins it into a truly spectacular read. Rarely have I been so caught up in a book as I was with this unforgettable tale of bravery and love, hope and redemption. Fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See will delight in this epic novel.” (Lori Nelson Spielman, international bestselling author)

“Laura Morelli’s The Night Portrait is a gorgeous and propulsive novel that brings to dramatic life the stories of Leonardo da Vinci, the subject of one of his most famous paintings, and the Monuments Men’s quest to rescue that masterpiece from the Nazis during World War II. This stunning novel is a great masterpiece on its own, making you see old stories — and old art — in fresh, new ways. Perfect for any art lover or anyone who wants to understand why we all must care about the history of art.” (Stephanie Storey, author of Oil and Marble and Raphael, Painter in Rome)

The Night Portrait is an astonishing, epic tale that seamlessly spans centuries of history and art, encompassing the beauty of the Renaissance and the horrible truths of Nazi Germany. Masterfully imagined and unforgettable, this riveting novel shows us the power of art to bring hope in a world of despair.” (Crystal King, author of The Chef’s Secret)

The Night Portrait is a compelling page turner at the same time as it is a mesmerizing meditation on legacy, guilt and complicity, the horrors of war, and most of all, the singular power of art. This well-researched and vivid novel is sure to thrill history buffs and art lovers alike.”   (Alyssa Palombo, author of The Borgia Confessions)


Author visits with Laura Morelli are available via