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Stealing the Mystic Lamb: 304 Hardcover – 21 Oct 2010
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Kirkus, July 15, 2010
“Charney unsnarls the tangled history of Jan van Eyck’s 15th-century The Ghent Altarpiece (aka The Mystic Lamb), 'the most desired and victimized object of all time.' With a novelist’s sense of structure and tension, the author adds an easy familiarity with the techniques of oil painting and with the intertwining vines of art and political and religious history…. A brisk tale of true-life heroism, villainy, artistry and passion.”
"[A]ction-packed…. In scrupulous detail, Charney divulges the secrets of the revered painting’s past, and in doing so, gives readers a history lesson on art crime, a still-prospering black market.”
“Well-written and thorough, this book reminds us of the influence and fragility of art, our veniality and heroism, and the delights found in both the beautiful and the strange.”
“In Charney’s hand, the story of the various heists often reads like a political thriller.”
“Charney’s wonderfully learned and entertaining book tells us about all the indignities this famous image has endured through the centuries… but the book also has some much broader point to make about the cultural significance of important paintings… Charney tackles some important subjects (the creation of the modern art-stealing industry, our sensible obsession with almost burglar-proof museums) but he wears his learning lightly and the next extraordinary tale is only ever a few pages away. Best of a very good bunch must be the account of the Monuments Men: the highly qualified people who followed in the wake of the liberating armies at the end of World War Two… It is good to hear their story and all the other bizarre tales this innovative and elegant book has to tell.”
About the Author
Noah Charney holds advanced degrees in art history from The Courtauld Institute and Cambridge University. He is the author of numerous articles and the international bestselling novel, The Art Thief. He is the editor of an academic essay collection entitled Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World.. Recently a Visiting Lecturer at Yale University, Charney is now Professor of Art History at The American University of Rome. He lives in Italy with his wife.
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I enjoyed the book's chapters dealing with its history, I settled in comfortably, and liked the part about the 1934 theft of the righteous judges panel a lot.
However, too large a part is about WW II, German looting and especially America's role in retrieving stolen works of art. Elaborate portraits of all characters involved... not terribly relevant to the theme to my taste. In all, the painting disappears from the book from page192 until page 277 (the books holds 288 pages).
Written primarily for an American audience, with the usual American patriotic gusto and focus.
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