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Frederick Sandys: A Catalogue Raisonne
Frederick Sandys: A Catalogue Raisonne
by Betty Elzea
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £45.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second-hand cat. rais., 24 May 2014
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It's in good condition; it's just just what I was looking for; it was posted very quickly and was nicely packed.

By Lynn Shepherd - Tom-All-Alone's (Charles Maddox 2)
By Lynn Shepherd - Tom-All-Alone's (Charles Maddox 2)
by Lynn Shepherd
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dickens of a good read... (this brief holiday review first appeared in The Tablet), 1 Mar. 2014
An extremely clever, tense & beautifully-written variation on the London of Dickens’s Bleak House, this is a noirish murder mystery woven around echoes and reflections of the latter’s own characters (are they? perhaps...),but seen in a very dark glass...

A Treacherous Likeness (Charles Maddox 3)
A Treacherous Likeness (Charles Maddox 3)
Price: £4.99

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly-argued likeness (this review first appeared in The Tablet), 1 Mar. 2014
Lynn Shepherd’s books are rapidly and brilliantly tunnelling under the literary peaks of the 19th century, and bringing to the surface the straitjacketed skeletons which lurk there. Her third, A treacherous likeness, another outing for her detective Charles Maddox, follows on the heels of his foray (in Tom-All-Alone’s) into the darker hinterlands of Dickens’s Bleak House. Psychologically drained and physically injured by this last engagement, he now finds himself entangled in the secrets and lies of the very real Romantic Poets.
He is engaged by the surviving son of Percy Bysshe Shelley to safeguard the poet’s reputation, burnished and tended as it has been by the son, his wife, and Shelley’s widow, Mary (now in her fifties). It rapidly becomes evident, however, that beneath the burnish the metal is vilely dark and pitted by corrosive emotions. The literary exegisis of novelistic or historical mysteries is a growing trend; for instance, James Wilson’s The dark clue, which investigated the apparent secrets in J.M.W. Turner’s life, only to fizzle out in a puff of disappointing marsh gas. Lynn Shepherd is no fizzler; she has painstakingly reconstructed the smallest events in the lives of her cast around 1816 and 1850, and filled in the gaps in a persuasive and imaginative tour de force of extrapolative fiction. (Or is it?)
The narrative moves from Charles and the bed-ridden Mary Shelley in 1850, to Charles’s great-uncle Maddox and his employment by the young Shelleys in 1816. This earlier Maddox was himself a celebrated detective, by 1850 disabled with a stroke and possible dementia, but in the early 19th century called upon by William Godwin (Caleb Williams, etc) and his déclassé second wife, to find out whether Shelley will marry Godwin’s daughter Mary, or return to his first wife, Harriet. Maddox is plunged, despite himself, into the involved loves and hates of the Shelleys, Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, Harriet Shelley, and the variously engendered offspring. He discovers a pit of interrelationships so dark, murderous, incestuously interwoven and infectious that he is hideously compromised and buries the whole matter – until his great-nephew comes digging.
Several corpses are disinterred, along with vignettes revealing Shelley’s and Mary Godwin’s genuinely disfunctional behaviour. Both corpses and revelations come by way of a jigsaw of letters and reports in various voices, including two heart-breakingly poignant suicide notes, which gradually interlock to form a picture of these destructive lives. The picture is fractured, however, and always shifting: who can we believe? - who is telling the truth? – is the reflection held up to us an honest portrait, or a treacherous likeness?
The relationships of the poets and their young wives and mistresses are echoed in those of the two Maddoxes, where love and loss, birth and death and tragedy, reflect the themes of the primary narrative; so that the high Victorian world undercuts and intersects with the Regency world. The multi-layered plotting which contains these varied perspectives is extraordinarily clever and satisfying, and culminates in a resolution which marries historical fact to themes in Shelley’s own writing. It may rely somewhat on coincidence, but only the most carping of critics would object to some extra smoke and mirrors in this imaginative castle. A complete joy...

Michelangelo: Volume 1: The Achievement of Fame, 1475-1534
Michelangelo: Volume 1: The Achievement of Fame, 1475-1534
by Michael Hirst
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £30.00

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carving out a reputation, 4 Jun. 2012
This review appeared in The Tablet on 31 March 2012 Michelangelo: Volume 1: The Achievement of Fame, 1475-1534

Michelangelo, like his older contemporary and rival, Leonardo, is such a gigantic figure of the imagination - towering over the late Renaissance, producing sculptures and poetry, designing buildings, covering yards of ceiling and wall with breath-taking frescoes - that he has attained a mythic status. The story of the Holy Roman Emperor stooping to pick up a paintbrush for Titian expresses the metamorphosis of the artist from mediaeval artisan to creative genius, but it is probably Michelangelo whom we see as personifying the newly intransigent artistic prodigy, intensely productive, his life littered with abandoned projects, at odds with patrons and peers as he creates work after matchless work.
He had a long life, dying at 89, and this first volume of Michael Hirst's biography follows him to his final departure from Florence to Rome in 1534, when he still had thirty years before him. Like the man, it is a titanic production: the sort of book which is described as magisterial, and which - when you consider the number of words generated by and about Michelangelo - is an almost miraculously compact summarizing and ordering of a vast and baggy literature.
Hirst has drawn into a coherent thread all the information revealed in letters by and to the artist, his contracts, and his Ricordi (detailing his financial life). Although biographies by Vasari and Ascanio Condivi were written even whilst he was alive, and the process continued through succeeding centuries, much of the actual correspondence and other paperwork has been published during the late 20th and early 21st century, and Hirst has spliced together these new, direct sources with contemporary accounts, and earlier biographies, articles and essays in a complex web of references which has produced a bibliography 38 pages long and which, with the wodge of endnotes, occupies a third of the book.
The careful accuracy of this process has chipped away at the myth and discovered the man. From the frontispiece, which reproduces an illustrated shopping list the artist drew up for illiterate assistants or shopkeepers (enough fish, carafes of wine and loaves of bread for three days), we are shown the quotidian Michelangelo, opening a bank account, buying harness for the horses transporting the marble for the Pietà, rushing across country so quickly that he arrives with no clean clothes. He wrestles with unfair taxes, exigeant clients, unregenerate quarrymen, war, plague and his family, and still contrives to paint and sculpt the most poignant and perfect dead Christs in the whole history of art. His father is a particular pest, reminiscent of Jane Austen's Sir Walter Eliot, complaining perpetually of his lot without doing anything to earn a tithe of what he expects he should have; and his brothers are another financial clog.
Hirst has been particularly careful to rescue Michelangelo from the accusations of being unpleasant, rude and generally disliked by his peers; letter after letter through this first part of his career is adduced to demonstrate the strong and faithful love he inspired in so many - in patrons such as Pope Clement VII, who, like the family of Pope Julius II, saw the projects he had commissioned roll on through decade after decade; and in his assistants and colleagues. Epithets such as `amantissimo' and `chiarissimo' scatter the letters, not always (from the pens of clients) politically charged; and the devotion of friends such as Sebastiano del Piombo, and assistants such as Antonio Mini, is clear. So is Michelangelo's generosity; he rescues his hopeless family from his teenage years onwards, provides for his niece and for family servants, gives away drawings, whilst pressure from powerful men assails him on all sides and pushes his working burden beyond bearing.
For all this, Hirst has a chilly eye; Michelangelo's portrait emerges from the academic jigsaw he has assembled almost in spite of himself. This is not Charles Nicholls on Leonardo, Mark Hudson on Titian or Andrew Graham-Dixon on Caravaggio. All these, although equally learned, well-researched and meticulous, were compulsively readable books with a fascinating narrative drive. Hirst's book is something else: a necessity, a great and admirable achievement, an extraordinary work of synthesis; but you wouldn't read it for its engaging power, empathy or wit.

Lazarus Is Dead
Lazarus Is Dead
by Richard Beard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.94

5.0 out of 5 stars This is a brilliant book... do read it, 4 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Lazarus Is Dead (Hardcover)
This review appeared in 2011 in The Tablet: Lazarus Is Dead
What an extraordinary book this is - ingenious and gripping in all the best ways (sends you back to the Bible, too). Before reading it I thought that it must be touched with the zeitgeist of novels like Jim Crace's Quarantine (Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness) or Anne Wroe's biography of Pilate, but it's much more its own animal - shifting and changing position: the tone equally elusive, moving from a journalist's objectivity to subtle, wry satire.

The speculation around the premises on which the Man Booker Prize is established - should it highlight the newest work (and cloud of older books) by an author without enough honour in his land, or promote a brilliant newcomer, or support the bravely experimental, or stick to the weightily literary, or go for comforting readability? - seems apposite here. I cannot think now, having read it, why Lazarus is dead wasn't at the top of the shortlist, the bookies creeping hopelessly away from its starry aura. I cannot think of another book which fulfills pretty well all those criteria (above) - and if you think that the first and second are in conflict, I would say that Richard Beard is a newcomer to me, and that I am going in search of his older books now.

This is the story of the Biblical Lazarus. Beard hardly had much to work on; John, ch.11, is it, in terms of the facts. The essence of a good researcher, I suppose - perhaps the essence of a good journalist - is in the ability to sniff out the last smear of a factoid which can be added to the small pile of verifiable truth; the essence of a good writer is in the imaginative ability to spin a great fizzing candy ball of gold out of that small pile of straw.

Both are employed here. Beard uses every word in John: 11 as the skeleton of his tale; he also whizzes about the New Testament, collecting supporting information, such as where Jesus was at relevant moments; what the Sanhedrin was up to; the putative back story. But the most striking aspects of all this collecting are the other sources he ransacks, and the place given to the pile of the straw within the novel. He must have read every book which mentions Lazarus (Norman Mailer, The Gospel according to the Son; O'Neill, Lazarus laughed; Yeats, Calvary), and looked at every painting (Castagno's The Last Supper, the Trés Riches Heures); many of them, especially the books, are invoked here, as though they carried the same evidential weight as the Bible. And the collected references alternate with the onward narrative flow, so that Beard's inhabiting of the characters of Lazarus, Mary, Martha and Jesus, and his realization of this short anecdote as a large, complex drama, are underpinned by passages which appear to give validity (or alternatives) to his exegesis.

The result, which posits a theory for Lazarus's place in the Divine Scheme of Christ's coming, examining and testing the theory and offering diverse variations on the different viewpoints, is both exhilaratingly fresh and mordantly ironic. It's also a tremendously good read.

The Coward's Tale
The Coward's Tale
by Vanessa Gebbie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars All in the telling..., 4 Jun. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Coward's Tale (Paperback)
This review appeared in The Tablet, 12 April 2012The Coward's Tale

This is a story about stories, woven like a great patterned shawl in which every thread is another story, playing its part in the whole. At a time when journalists tut that reading fiction during a recession is frivolous, and when short stories have become endangered animals on the radio, this book appears so appositely as to have been conjured magically out of its own metaphors to show us how stories make sense of the world.

It is set in the particular world of a Welsh mining town, based on a real one near Merthyr Tydfil, which is both a small, enclosed place and a Tardis which holds a wider universe of experience and suffering. This world encompasses three generations of townspeople, and the relationships in and twists and turns taken by their lives have all been catalysed by a disaster which happened in the local mine, Kindly Light, many years before. Eleven men, a small boy and the beggar-cum-storyteller-cum-shaman who orchestrates and reveals the stories - these are the main players, whose histories enthrall their neighbours as they do us. There is something mythic in this castlist and its number, just as there is something otherworldly about the figure of the Coward himself, the beggar, Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, who knows every secret of the town's inhabitants; he lures the audiences of the local cinema away from their queue like a Pied Piper, leading them in imagination deep into the darkness of the pit, and - just as deeply - into the dark crevices of the human heart.

Don't think that this is a whimsical burst of magical realism, however; this is myth, but it is unsentimental and deeply moving. It is also realism of the most compassionate kind, which examines betrayal, love, friendship and remorse through the lives of the main characters, following the expanding rings of cause and effect outward into the families and acquaintances who throng around them.

We find brides who have lost their grooms, and are driven into madness, prostitution and disease; brothers who are parted by disability and worldliness; men who have lost their jobs and their courage; sons who make restitution for the faults of their fathers; and all kinds of behaviour, the eccentricity of which turns out to be utterly logical.

It is a highly visual book, almost cinematic in its conjuration of the streets of the town; the hill with its cemetery, the desolation of the pit, the pub, the library, and the abandoned chapel. It is also plangently aural, conjuring the lilting Welsh voices of the townspeople through precisely rendered idiom; this is a book not so much to be read as to be entered, swum through, saturated in. If you didn't know that Vanessa Gebbie is also a poet, you will discover it from this book: fluently and fluidly written, the language echoes the complex and satisfying structure of the interwoven stories. It is also funny, tense, exciting, and you won't want to stop reading it; buy this for Christmas presents, and your friends will be happy. Everybody needs stories...

The Lost Mona Lisa
The Lost Mona Lisa
by R A Scotti
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review by Lynn Roberts, published in The Tablet, 22 August 2009, 12 Mar. 2012
This review is from: The Lost Mona Lisa (Hardcover)
Like the recent Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale, The Lost Mona Lisa revisits an historical crime; one which equally enthralled an avid, newspaper-reading public, and which also to this day retains elements of mystery. Both were crimes which seemed at the time inconceivable: the murder of a child in a middle-class Victorian home, and the spiriting away of one of the greatest treasures of the Louvre. Both also tested the competence of detective services which were still maturing, and both had a global reach.
The theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911 is fascinating for us today since one of the suspects implicated in her removal went on to become as great an artist in his own century as her creator, Leonardo. Picasso, with his friend the poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire, was drawn into the affair because one of the more raffish of their hangers-on had been filching archaic statuettes from the Louvre, and had sold a couple to Picasso. Picasso had used them as references in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, completed six months before the theft of the Mona Lisa, and still had them stashed in a cupboard in his studio.
A third statuette was returned by `The Thief' to a newspaper, the Paris-Journal, which had offered a reward for information on the whereabouts of the Mona Lisa. Unfortunately, the pseudonym he chose was the name of a fictional character in L'Hérésiarque et cie by Apollinaire, which led the police, despairing after nearly three weeks with no leads, straight to the doorstep of la bande de Picasso.
Scotti uses contemporary newspapers creatively throughout her book; in this central chapter we can follow `l'affaire des statuettes' in quotations, from the return of the first statue, through Picasso's restoration of the other two, to Apollinaire's arrest, arraignment, and release, and his own account of his time in custody (`a purgatory of boredom, where you are alone and yet constantly spied on'). Apparently the whole affair may have been newspaper-centred - a prank by the arts editor of the Paris-Journal. However, because Picasso's band had denounced museums and traditional art, because `The Thief' had left Paris on the day the Mona Lisa disappeared, and because his trail led to Apollinaire, the police pounced, incidentally destroying the well of cubism and the friendship of Picasso and Apollinaire.
The French police were never to arrest anyone else for the theft of the Mona Lisa. She vanished between Sunday night and Tuesday morning from `the largest museum in the world', where security was vestigial, none of the three thousand paintings was secured to the walls, and the movement of neither employees nor artefacts was recorded. Her protective glass box and her frame were found dumped on a staircase, marked with one untraceable thumbprint.
Scotti retails the theft as the classic `locked room' detective story, and shows its aftermath refracted in further newspaper reports, from the initial shock - `The entire world sat back aghast' (New York Times); `What is perhaps the most famous picture in the Louvre has been selected for abstraction' (The Times) - to outraged indictments of the chaotic security at the museum, and trial by editorial of the Director, who, in a scenario familiar to us today, is thrown to the lions by the government.
The stoking of public interest by these reports has an equally familiar effect. The Mona Lisa, whose charismatic power had been slowly increasing since the late eighteenth century, achieves sudden world-wide celebrity. Her image, reproduced through the relatively new technology of colour photography, appears everywhere, and even for the non-museum-going she becomes the most famous face on earth.
When, more than two years after the theft, she is offered to a Florentine antiques dealer, she `once again became an international sensation', and the headlines turn purple. They have ideal fodder in her abductor, a petty crook called Vincenzo Peruggia who insists that he has liberated the Mona Lisa from the Louvre and returned her to Italy. In his version of history she has been ravished by Napoleon, rather than being legally acquired by François I, and he has rescued her. He becomes Italy's hero and is showered in prison with letters, presents and offers of bail; finally, as the First World War pushes Mona Lisa out of the headlines, he is given a nominal sentence by a sceptical court.
The finale is also newspaper-centred. Scotti tells it in the form of a short story, taken from the original 1932 report, `Why and how the Mona Lisa was stolen', in the Saturday Evening Post. It describes the perfect scam, dovetailing beautifully with all the details of Peruggia's story, and explaining how a rather dim criminal came to be Italy's `hero-thief'. But is it true? Read this intriguing book and see what you think.

Da Vinci's Ghost: The untold story of Vitruvian Man
Da Vinci's Ghost: The untold story of Vitruvian Man
by Toby Lester
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review by Lynn Roberts, published in The Tablet, 19 January 2012, 12 Mar. 2012
You will know this drawing as well as you know the Mona Lisa: it's Vitruvian Man, standing inside his circle and his square with his four arms and four legs spread wide (`...the guy doing naked jumping jacks...'); but possibly, like me, you've never thought much about its pedigree. That it should have a book-long history, so riveting that when you've read it on the train it burns a hole in your bag; well, that really is the world's most famous drawing.
This is an extraordinarily interesting and exciting book. Toby Lester has spun a containing circle of his own, from his progressive researches, and from a journey made by Leonardo with the architect Giorgio Martini which probably sparked the production of the drawing. Overlaying this circle is the straight panel of history, leading from Vitruvius himself into the afterlife of Leonardo's fragile drawing, whisked about from owner to owner until acquired by the Accademia, Venice; and there in the midst of everything is Leonardo, staring at himself with sufficient intensity to transcribe his soul.
Within this diagrammatic structure whole worlds of scientific and philosophical exploration are crammed, and Lester, with his fluidly readable prose, enthusiasm, and tenacious digging after facts, is the ideal master to unpack it for us. He starts with the spiritual schema of the Lambeth Map (c.1300), with Christ standing in a square, embracing the circle of the globe; and the pagan geometry of the Roman architect Vitruvius, who saw `the proportions of ... temples [conforming] to the proportions of the ideal human body... [which] conformed to the hidden geometry of the universe'. Vitruvius was architect to the emperor Augustus, who sent his engineers marching across Europe to build `a perfect body of empire... controlled by a single head of state'; and in his Ten Books on Architecture (mid-20s BC), Vitruvius drew continual analogies between the human body, architectural proportion and the cosmos, and the defining geometrical elements of all three were the square and the circle.
The Ten Books disappeared into the whirlpool of history, re-emerging in the 8th century, when the demi-god Augustus had been replaced by the Son of God, `the head of the body, the church'. Christ became the metaphor for both micro- and macro- cosm, whilst scientific thought saw the anatomy of the body and the geography of the world as reflections of each other. These interlocking modes of thought with which Leonardo grew up were ideally adapted to stimulate his multifarious interests in natural phenomena, engineering, building and physical anatomy. He befriended the architect Bramante, with whom he discussed Vitruvius's ideas, as well as Francesco di Giorgio Martini, whose Treatise... was a contemporary, part-illustrated answer to the Ten Books.
While he pondered a way to raise the vast putative dome of Milan's cathedral, Leonardo prepared his own treatise, On the Human Body, measuring the relative proportions of every part, and attempting to locate the seat of the soul; he may also have worked with his friend Giacomo Andrea on a fully-illustrated version of the Ten Books. Out of this cauldron of ideas drifts a sheet of paper, slightly larger than A4, on which Leonardo has brought to life Vitruvius's description of the ideally-proportioned man, his navel at the centre of the circle which touches his outstretched fingers and toes, while a square with a different centre defines his armspan and height. This creative decentring simultaneously harmonizes both real and ideal anatomies, and both geometrical figures. At the same time, concentration has rendered the Man as `a kind of metaphysical self-portrait... a universal self-portrait... his ghost... unforgettably alive'. Compulsively readable.

The American Leonardo: A 20th Century Tale of Obsession, Art & Money: A Tale of 20th Century Obsession, Art and Money
The American Leonardo: A 20th Century Tale of Obsession, Art & Money: A Tale of 20th Century Obsession, Art and Money
by John Brewer
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review by Lynn Roberts, published in The Tablet, 21 March 2009, 12 Mar. 2012
This is the story of a painting, or the last ninety years in the existence of a painting. It's a painting which we are never clearly shown; the illustrations inside the book and on the dust jacket are not only small, but are angled away from us, so that the subject seems to be slipping away before we have grasped it. This is of a piece with its recent history; this is the painting which might have been a Leonardo, or the copy of a Leonardo in the Louvre which may itself not be by Leonardo, or even the original of which the Louvre picture is the copy.
The slipperiness of this work, the so-called Hahn La Belle Ferronnière, becomes, in this extraordinary and fascinating book, a symbol of and metaphor for the connoisseurship which has supported or (mostly) negated its authenticity, for the dealings of the art world which relies on something so nebulous as connoisseurship, and for the outside world which both needs and suspects the hortus inclusus of the expert and aesthete.
The picture is the central point (but not a fixed point) of an onion-like series of concentric circles, each one of which stands for another, larger world. In the end, it even becomes a symbol of the financial shipwreck we are currently living through, when its most recent exploiters use it as collateral against loans or distribute stakes in its putative value (adding up to an `increasingly vertiginous' £28 million), should it ever be authenticated and sold.
John Brewer takes this piece of fairy gold and asks of it the questions which we all ask of an Old Master, whether we are inside or outside the art world - `Is it a masterpiece? Is it a Leonardo? How do I know?' He circles these questions, looking at them from the viewpoint of all the various worlds he invokes - of the conservator, the art historian, the dealer, the connoisseur, the art-collecting `robber barons' of the entrepreneurial New World, the press, and the `callow small-town, Midwestern mechanic' who, with his French wife, is trying to sell La Belle Ferronnière.
The war of the worlds - the inherent distrust of the small-town man for `art expertise [which] might appear like "charlatanism" or "black magic"' - coalesces in a court case over the picture, beginning in 1921 and spawning a litter of inconclusive actions which dribble on until 2008, and which may finally be settled this month, with the return of the painting to the mechanic's daughter.
The target of the original case is long dead: Sir Joseph Duveen, ringmaster of the art-dealing world, whose skill at lassooing the collections of impoverished English aristocrats and relocating them in the neo-Louis palaces of the Hearsts and the Rockefellas was unrivalled. The Hahns hoped that he would confirm their `Leonardo's' pedigree, enabling it to go either to an American collector or to a museum in their home city of Kansas, but, having seen only a photograph, he dismissed the work as a copy or fake. The Hahns sued for $500,000 in compensation for this `slander of title', and the subsequent assembling of experts, examinations and depositions levered open the secretive chambers of the art market and laid bare its workings to the prurient glee of the European and American press.
Brewer shows us how the massive wealth generated by the prairies, mines, railroads and banks of America fed into a Niagara of consumerism, throwing up millionaires, marble palaces of art, and a hunger for the affirmation of `high culture'. He explains how the idea of Leonardo possessed such magic by the 1920s, seen as a proto-American innovator, surrounded already by tales of fakes and robberies; and he investigates the `culture of connoisseurship', whereby a man who appeared to have no formal qualifications but `discernment' and produced no tangible evidence for his views was able to make or unmake the reputation of a painting.
Unfortunately for Duveen, his was a world riddled with flaws and rivalries, where embryonic scientific processes (paint analysis and x-rays) were disdained by connoisseurs such as Bernard Berenson, along with inventorial or historic evidence; and where misattributions and careless comments rose above a life's accurate work like froth on a pint to haunt the maker. The case nearly undid Duveen, who settled out of court; and the uncertainly and hope produced in the Hahns by this near miss led to eighty years of tilting at windmills by the various supporters of the painting. Brewer has a written a detective story, a social history, and a thrillingly murky myth of human greed; just right for our times.

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