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Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us from Seeing Hardcover – International Edition, April 29, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; export ed edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158243235X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582432359
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Darian Leader is one of the finest popular writers using the psychoanalytical insights of Freud and Lacan to understand the contemporary state of love, life, and letters. In Stealing the Mona Lisa he turns his attentions to art. The book is not really about the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. For Leader, the story of the theft provides a leitmotif for his elegant discussion of why we find art so seductive, but ultimately frustrating and perhaps disappointing. Leader begins by asking if "the story of the 'Mona Lisa's' disappearance can tell us something about art and why we look at it." He is fascinated by the fact that the painting's absence drew crowds, and asks, "might this give us a clue as to why we look at visual art? Are we looking for something that we have lost?"

This is an elegant and witty book that uses the insights of Freud and primarily Lacan to offer a range of amusing but often striking accounts of why we look at art, the importance of the gaze and the look, the significance of emptiness and incompleteness in art, and why artists create what appear to many to be incomprehensible works. Erudite and wide-ranging, Leader moves from a comparison of Leonardo's painted smile to a symbolic penis, to the artist Yinka Shonibare's observation that painting "was a way of staying out of hospital," which leads Leader to conclude that "the only people who don't sublimate are artists." Stealing the Mona Lisa doesn't always convince, but Leader's ability to explain complex theoretical ideas without oversimplification makes this a fascinating psychoanalytical version of John Berger's classic Ways of Seeing. For Leader, the point is to understand what art stops us seeing. --Jerry Brotton

Review

"It's intelligent and witty and has cracking good anecdotes...It can tell you things about art you had never thought of." -- Evening Standard

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Magda S. on March 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's a fascinating meditation on art, desire, value, and beauty as seen from the lens of the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. The author, who is most obviously incredibly smart, uses a casual yet colorful voice that never reeks of self-importance or self-consciousness. So many great observations, this is a book I'll dip into again and again.

The only complaint I have is that I wish it had been broken up into chapters, rather than one long narrative.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eggert Ragnarsson on November 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
this book is great and I would recommend it to anyone. Its really rare to find a book written on art that manages to be fun and well written, this is both. Amazingly I couldnt put this book down, a total breath of fresh air, thank you Darian Leader!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having originally purchased this book as a source of reference material for my own novel 'Masterpiece' I read it from cover to cover and was fascinated by the author's theories on why we appreciate art. Why did people flock to see the empty space left on the wall of the Louvre by the stolen Mona Lisa when, prior to its theft, few people even considered it to be a masterpiece?

What is 'art' and what is just 'an image'? Leader gives us some fascinating insights on these questions in a very readable and accessible book.
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