Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World's Most Coveted Masterpiece [NOOK Book]

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 ...

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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

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.

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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586489243
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 10/5/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 300,340
  • File size: 2 MB

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.
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 4, 2010

    A true story and a terrific read

    I really enjoyed this book. We are introduced to the Ghent Altarpiece, a 500 year old art masterpiece, a painting on wood that weighs 2 tons---and yet it has been stolen more often than any other work of art. Noah Charney tells us why---and what happened. We learn how revolutionary the painting was, and how it inspired most of the great artists of the Renaissance. There are intriguing mysteries---we don't really know who painted it, and we're not really sure if one lost panel is real. Then there are the thefts---for so many reasons: religious wars, misplaced patriotism, war booty, ransom and finally, and most excitingly, by the Nazi's for Hitlers planned "ubermuseum". The story reads like a thriller, sharply written and well paced. Especially engrossing was the last section as the Allied Third Army races to locate the stolen "Mystic Lamb" before the Nazi's can destroy it and thousancds of other irreplaceable works of art, as part of their vengeful retreat at war's end. If you are interested in art, or art crime---or a fascinating march through history -you will love this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Great combination of Art and History

    This book is a great combination of historical facts and the analysis of a famous work of art. I greatly enjoyed the author's previous book, The Art Thief, and highly recommend that if you're interested in a fast-paced mystery. On the other hand, if you want to learn more about art's role in wars, conquests, and history in general, this is a good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Very interesting subject

    i enjoy history and my daughter had heard a review, on NPR, and thought I would enjoy this book...and she was right.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2011

    Amazing tale

    THE AUTHOR TAKES YOU THROUGH HISTORY ON THE BUTRESSED WINGS OF THE GHENT ALTAR PIECE. SELDOM DOES A PIECE OF HISTORY HOLD SUCH FACINATION FOR ME. WONDERFUL!

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    Posted January 10, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2011

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