45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2012
This sounded like such a good book; just the kind of book that I like. Stories behind works of art that have been lost, destroyed, transformed, hidden away or stolen. I imagined pages of sumptuous illustrations of works of art, exciting and interesting stories of crimes, invesigations, terrible accidents... you know, breathless recountings of detection and treasure hunts, with the world's greatest paintings or sculptures as the prize to be won or lost forever.
What a terrible disappoinment it turned out to be, on many fronts. Firstly, the text is not only sparse but frequently banal. If a great painting was destroyed somehow, or fabulous jewels were lost, I want the why, when, who, how and where. If the only record for posterity is a copy, I want to know who made the copy, why, when, how (you get my drift).
For instance, the book discusses an enormous 16th century fresco (chapter: Destroyed) and all we get as to its destruction is "Unfortunately, the work was destroyed in 1660 as a result of urban redevelopment". WHY? Do we know who was responsible? The only record we have of the fresco is a partial copy made in 1649. By whom? Why did they make a copy? When discussing the Romanov jewels,(chapter: Lost) we get a picture of a non-disappeared crown, a pitiful list of some of the many hundreds of items we know to have been lost - and an out of focus photograph of one of them. What was its history? What was it made of? How much did it cost? Under what circumstances was the photograph taken? Napoleon's diamond (chapter: Transformed) tells us that the diamond first appeared in a crown, then a sword, then another crown, then a necklace....... its not been "transformed", just moved around into different settings. Its not been cut up, remodelled or changed in shape - so its not "transformed". I would have liked a picture showing it in the crown, then the sword, then the other crown...... with me?
Quite often the subject under discussion is mentioned extremely briefly, then the text flies off at a complete tangent. Not that there is much text - often less than 100 words on each page, surrounded by vast acres of white space.
What is also annoying is the author's total slobbering over works of modern art that borders on the orgasmic, when this enthusiasm is clearly not shared for the works of the great masters. In fact, some great works are discussed in terms so dismissive that its quite embarrassing.
The text is also littered with sloppy spelling and punctuation, no bibliography and nothing about the author herself. In all, a terrible, terrible disappointment.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2013
This is a book about art and luck. It is thoughtfully laid out and contains beautiful reproductive prints and images, many covering an entire page. It is, consequently, a very easy read, and this is its purpose - to prompt thought, not to be exhaustive. The comments on each work are concise and engaging, giving just enough information both about the work and its loss (or in some cases, movement and recovery). Naturally, some of the stories are depressing and I would have preferred if the works had not been categorized according to method of loss - giving more randomness to proceedings, but overall it's a valuable read for anyone interested in the power and meaning of art to people.