×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece
     

Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece

by Noah Charney
 

See All Formats & Editions

Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece is on any art historian’s list of the ten most important paintings ever made. Often referred to by the subject of its central panel, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, it represents the fulcrum between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It is also the most frequently stolen artwork of all time.

Since its completion in

Overview

Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece is on any art historian’s list of the ten most important paintings ever made. Often referred to by the subject of its central panel, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, it represents the fulcrum between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It is also the most frequently stolen artwork of all time.

Since its completion in 1432, this twelve-panel oil painting has been looted in three different wars, burned, dismembered, forged, smuggled, illegally sold, censored, hidden, attacked by iconoclasts, hunted by the Nazis and Napoleon, used as a diplomatic tool, ransomed, rescued by Austrian double-agents, and stolen a total of thirteen times.

In this fast-paced, real-life thriller, art historian Noah Charney unravels the stories of each of these thefts. In the process, he illuminates the whole fascinating history of art crime, and the psychological, ideological, religious, political, and social motivations that have led many men to covet this one masterpiece above all others.

Editorial Reviews

Almost from its conception, the large-scale 15th century Van Eyck altarpiece in Ghent, Belgium was plagued by problems. Hubert Van Eyck began the project in the early 1420s, but he died before this ambitious project of 12 panels and 24 compartmented scenes could reach fruition. After his 1426 demise, the work was taken up and completed by younger brother Jan. But, as Noah Charney's new book shows, the travails of this Middle Ages masterpiece had just begun. In century after century, the so-called Adoration of the Mystic Lamb was dismembered, hidden, looted, pawned, mutilated, stolen, smuggled, ransomed, burned, forged, and used as war reparations. In fact, this incomparable panel painting holds the dubious distinction of being the most stolen artwork of all time. A subject even more captivating than the author's novel The Art Thief.

Kirkus Reviews

Charney (Art History/American Univ. of Rome; The Art Thief, 2007, etc.) unsnarls the tangled history of Jan van Eyck's 15th-century The Ghent Altarpiece(akaThe 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. He begins near the end of World War II. As the Reich's military fortunes crumbled, the Allies scrambled to find where the Nazis concealed their tens of thousands of stolen artworks, many slated for Hitler's proposed "super museum." Among them was the Altarpiece. Charney pauses to describe the large work, which comprises 20 individual painted panels, hinged together. Art historians admire it not just for its supreme craftsmanship—described clearly by the author—but also for its historical significance as the world's first major oil painting. Charney also lists a number of "firsts" that the work represents (e.g., the first to use directed spotlighting) and sketches the biography of van Eyck, which makes Shakespeare's seem richly detailed by comparison. Commissioned to create the altarpiece for the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, van Eyck took some six years to complete it. As religious and political strife waxed and waned, the painting was always in danger. The Calvinists didn't like it (the Catholics promptly hid it); Napoleon, perhaps history's greatest art thief, craved it; a cathedral fire threatened it; the Germans came for it in WWI and again in WWII. Even now, one panel remains at large, though some argue that the replacement copy is actually the original.

A brisk tale of true-life heroism, villainy, artistry and passion.

From the Publisher
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.”

Christian Science Monitor, August 30, 2010

"[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.”
 
Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 14, 2010

“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.”
 
Maclean's, October 14, 2010

“In Charney's hand, the story of the various heists often reads like a political thriller.”
 
Catholic Herald, December 13, 2010

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781586488000
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Publication date:
10/05/2010
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"A brisk tale of true-life heroism, villainy, artistry and passion." —-Kirkus

Meet the Author

Noah Charney is the author of the international bestselling novel The Art Thief and the founding director of The Association for Research into Crimes against Art, an international non-profit think tank. His work in the field of art crime has been praised in such forums as The New York Times Magazine, Time Magazine, Vanity Fair, Vogue, BBC Radio, and NPR. Currently professor of art history at the American University of Rome, he lives in Italy with his wife.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews