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In this book of art gossip and intrigue, Rachlin (Lucy's Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein's Brain) writes that for him, "the past is an obsession." Here, he provides breezy and sometimes riveting accounts of 26 famous paintings. All of these paintings and some of their histories are well known in the art world, although a few stories appear to be told publicly for the first time. Rachlin begins with the Mona Lisa, the world's most famous painting, then goes on to cover Gilbert Stuart's Athenaeum Head of George Washington, the world's most reproduced image (on the $1 bill), before ending with Dali's enigmatic Christ of Saint John of the Cross. Each story is introduced with a theme statement, which is often pedantic. Some of the stories, short as they are, are augmented with rhetorical questions, moralizing, and clichés, features that make the book most appropriate for adolescents with a budding interest in history or art history.